Getting Social Series: Astronautalis Talks Channeling Creativity on Social

Welcome to the latest installment of our “Getting Social” Series, wherein we showcase TuneCore Artists and music marketing pros who offer insight on social strategy for independents. Because after all, there’s more to social media than sharing tour dates and funny pictures!

Today we’re sharing an interview with indie MC Astronautalis (AKA Andy Bothwell). Hailing from Minneapolis, Astronautalis has been releasing albums since 2003, blending hip hop with elements of indie rock and electronic music, (among other genres). His songwriting is a force to be reckoned with – no obscure subject is off limits, and few MCs possess the topic bank and flow to make things your high school history teacher forgot about captivate an audience.  Astronautalis has built his fan base in sync with the progression of social media in mainstream culture, and was named a top Instagram follow by Pigeons and Planes. We discuss his interest in photography, using social to promote new releases and more below:

You recently released The Very Unfortunate Affairs of Mary & Earl – tell us about this ‘historical fiction’ album and how your fans have been reacting to it.

Astronautalis: Technically, it is a re-release of a very old EP I made for a vinyl only release on a small label in Germany several years ago. It was my first foray into working “historical-fiction” into rap music, and based on the rather star-crossed love affair between Mary Queen of Scots and James Hepburn, the Fourth Earl of Bothwell, Scotland.   Hepburn is actually a VERY distant relative, and the story, (which involves murder, kidnapping, black magic, and more), has always been a point of great fascination for me. The process of writing creatively from history was such a thrill for me on this project, it became a bit of a hallmark for my next two full-length records.

Has the amount of time you dedicate to social media changed as your fan base has grown?

Yes, several times, actually. Initially, back in the MySpace era, I used social media to book tours, talk to the few fans I had, and lay the meager little foundation that I would later build my career upon. MySpace messages made things a lot more long form then they are now in the world of Twitter and communicating through the comments section. Back then, I wrote back EVERYONE who wrote me, in a true and full response. Even with my small fan base, it became quite the undertaking, and as things expanded, I found that I didn’t have the time to write so extensively to fans.

Twitter couldn’t have come along at a better time. It was quite the revolution to be able to communicate with anyone and everyone, but within the inherent limitations of the format it became less like letter writing, and more like text messaging, and thusly, more manageable. Lately, I find myself focusing less on Twitter, and even less on Facebook still. They are still both important tools for my business, but I get little reward from them personally. And while I am still engaging with fans on both sites, and using both as business tools, the only social media I engage in with any great passion is Instagram. I, personally, find it much more rewarding to scroll through an endless stream of beautiful photos, as opposed to people being outraged over Beyonce’s Grammy snub, you know?

Do you feel your fan base is one that is very plugged in?

Certainly! Isn’t everyone of a certain age, or younger? I think people are so plugged in at this point, they do not have an understanding of what it means to be NOT plugged in, you know? When the revolution in the Ukraine started last year, it was insane to be able to not just talk directly to people who were on the ground in Kiev, but people who knew my music? Everything about that is so bizarre to me. The reach of all things in the modern age, even weirdo rap music, is nothing short of mind blowing.

What do you like (and/or dislike?) about the process of building excitement and dropping a new release on social?

The things I dislike about the process are really only the things I dislike about social media in general, and the level of laziness it fosters in people at times. People using social media to ask questions that could be solved with a short Google search, and what not. (Which is pretty much the main annoyance faced by any artist who is really connected and involved with their social media).

Aside from sometimes feeling like a butler, pretty much every other aspect of releasing and promoting through social media is fantastic! Working on a record is arduous and exhausting work; totally mentally and emotionally draining. You spend the better part of the entire process second-guessing everything from your lyrics to your album art, to your choice to start rapping when you were 12. When the album comes out, your social media is the thing that builds you back up. It is like having every person, from every show you are about to play, all in one room at once, cheering you on; and you would have to be a total asshole to not love and appreciate that support/ego stroking.

Between Facebook and Twitter, you boast over 69K followers/fans – which of these two comes most into play during a touring stretch?

Facebook has become all about business for me at this point. I use it to post the brass tacks about shows and tours and releases, especially on and around said tours and releases. Twitter really gets the most use in my life once I hit the road, partially because it becomes a great way to interact with folks before, during, and after shows. Also there is A LOT of time to kill on those van rides, and once you have run out of podcasts and you can’t play Mario Kart anymore, Twitter is always there for you with some excellent diversion.

Similarly, how do you feel you interact with your fans differently in general when it comes to those two channels?

As I said above, Facebook is become so about business and promotion, with little personal flair, that most of the fan interaction has turned that way as well. Even though it is host to my largest number of followers, I found pretty early on that people don’t like it when you use the Facebook page like Twitter. They get annoyed if you post a lot through the Facebook page. So, I try to keep it short, sweet, and down to business. As a result, much of the folks writing me on Facebook keep to that tone as well, (i.e. asking for show/tour details). On Twitter is where the interaction becomes much more personal, and I’ll find myself discussing everything from sports, to rap, to Target’s line of “50 Shades of Grey” sex toys. Facebook is where you go for stuff about “Astronautalis”. Twitter is where you go to talk to Andy, if that makes sense?

You were named one of the top 25 indie artists to follow on Instagram – and for a good reason. Has photography/visual art always been an interest of yours?

My mother was a photographer and a photography teacher, so I grew up in a dark room. And while I have always owned cameras, and taken photos, for me, it was always a hobby. Honestly, till Instagram.

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Where/when do you find yourself getting inspired to share photos most often? Or do you feel it’s more of a random happening?

One of the reasons I have latched onto Instagram was the creativity it fosters IN me. While it is a great creative outlet, and a nice distraction from music for me, the thing I enjoy the most is having an endless stream of great photos to look through all day. Seeing the world though all of those people’s eyes has pushed me to see photos everywhere and made me think more like a photographer. While the most popular photos I post are certainly the ones taken on tour in exotic locales, showing things most people have never seen, some of my favorites are the ones I take just strolling through my neighborhood in Minneapolis.

What tips do you have for an independent artist who’s trying to tighten their Instagram game up?

I think it starts with what is in your feed. If you just follow your friends posting pictures of themselves at parties, or shots of food they eat, chances are that is what your feed will end up looking like as well. Think of Instagram differently then other social media. Use Twitter and Facebook for socializing, but use Instagram for inspiration. If you follow great photographers, you’ll start thinking more like a photographer, just by osmosis. But, take it from me, when you start unfollowing your friends because their pictures suck…you better think of a nice way to explain it to them. People take this stuff SERIOUS!

Your career has really progressed almost parallel to that of social media’s presence in mainstream culture. Do you feel this gave you a leg up in terms of how you engage fans now?

I think so. For myself, and a lot of artists who adopted social media early, we were already sharp on a lot of the ins and outs, while most of the big guys and major label artists were still scrambling to figure out what the hell a tweet was, you know? Social media is not the real world: there is a whole different set of social morals to live by online, and a lot of which are still being written. I think the early adopters have proven to be more nimble in adapting to change, and more innovative when it came to making change in how this relatively new set of tools can be used.

What newer opportunities do you see for independents in hip hop when it comes to marketing their music online?

Rap music is going through a really exciting stratification right now. Rap has replaced rock as the language of pop music, and as you see rap coming out of all these strange places and faces, it is producing an infinite amount of sub-genres within the framework of “rap”. From a creative standpoint, I think this is astoundingly exciting. Thankfully, we live in a technological environment that allows artists to use the pinpoint marketing power of social media to find fans for their version of rap, no matter what obscure sub-genre of a sub-genre they occupy. And as the technology grows and improves, our power in that realm will only grow and improve as well. It is in exciting time for democratization of the business of art.

What’s in store for Astronautalis in 2015?

Well, I finished a new record (shopping that to labels now). I am re-releasing my entire back catalogue of rarities (about 8 EPs or so?) in the coming weeks. I have been working on a performance art piece with some British artists at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Starting on a couple of rad musical side projects. Sketching some ground plans for a top-secret non-musical project this summer. Touring a bunch in the states and Europe. And hopefully riding the hell out of my motorcycles as soon as the snow thaws…if not sooner.

Maximizing Facebook Ads On an Indie Budget

[Editors NoteThis is a guest blog post written by Don Bartlett, owner of No Door Agency, an Austin, TX-based boutique management and marketing agency. Don also hosts a monthly seminar titled “Facebook Marketing For Musicians.]

Independent artists are constantly looking for ways to eke maximum value from very limited promotion budgets. As Facebook continues to solidify its position at the center of the social media ecosystem, many conversations revolve around taking advantage of their incredibly powerful advertising tools.

The primary hesitations about the platform tend to be some combination of “it’s too expensive” and “we don’t see results”, but by sticking to a few core targeting and budgeting strategies you can take advantage of Facebook’s promotional benefits without going broke in the process.

In our experience you don’t need to spend a lot of money on Facebook advertising to get concrete results. However, if you’re working with a modest budget, it’s even more critical to structure your campaigns in a way that delivers the most value.

To this end, start with a premise: The bulk of your “results” – ticket sales and album sales in most cases – are going to come from your existing fans. Using Facebook ads to increase this pool is a separate topic entirely, but once a show is on sale your focus should shift to those who have already identified themselves as fans.

The most effective way to spend money on Facebook by a wide mile is reaching this group of people. On the surface this seems like a very easy concept and in many ways it is. So why do so many bands have a tough time getting results from their campaigns? In many cases, they’re spending too much.

Let’s look at an example…let’s say a band has 500 Facebook fans in Chicago, and they have an upcoming Windy City show scheduled that they’d like to promote:

Assuming a typical ad cost of about $10 per 1,000 people reached, a budget of $10 will reach all of those fans, likely twice each.

Since these 500 people are our most-likely ticket buyers, we always suggest reaching them three different times leading up to a show. However, these three campaigns should to be separated from each other by some “dead air” time where people won’t be seeing your ad.

Think of it as a reminder. This is a group of people who already likes your band, so they don’t need to be persuaded – they just need to be reminded. And if you remind someone about something five times a day, they’ll be annoyed. If you remind them every week or two, they’ll appreciate it.

So ideally, the band creates three different campaigns budgeted at $10 each, for a total of $30. It’s important to note here that this is very different from a single campaign for $30.

With the 10/10/10 model, they’ve got 100% coverage of their fans a few different times, but not to the point where they’re being bombarded six times a day for a month.

So to reach the 500 fans in this example $30 is not only all you need to spend, it’s all you SHOULD spend. Unfortunately many bands think that by pushing the budget up to $100 is going to give an extra push to ticket sales, when the reality is that it won’t help – and often it hurts. When people see your ad too many times they often will block or hide the ad posts, which negatively affects your page’s organic reach down the line.

There are certainly ways to put an additional $70 to good use, but that isn’t one of them. And the bulk of actual ticket sales are always to your existing fans so spending the $30 is critical, but spending the additional $70, even when done correctly, is far, far less critical.

Which brings us to another critical component of campaign structure: Your ads to existing fans should always be separate from any other targets.

As your most-likely ticket buyers, you want to ensure 100% coverage of this target. With other targets, you’re just looking to reach as many people as possible within your budget. So instead of running one campaign to “fans of our band, fans of Band X and fans of Band Y”, you should run one campaign to “fans of our band”, budgeting to ensure full coverage, and then a separate one to “fans of Band X and Band Y”.

To be sure, there are plenty of other elements that go into successful Facebook Ad campaigns. But following these targeting and budgeting strategies will put any campaign in a much better position to maximize the value of limited budgets.

Is Touring Still Relevant In the Digital Age? Yes, Actually – More Than Ever.

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Patrick McGuire. Patrick is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.]

 

In 2017, there’s never been more ways to experience the world around us on our computers and smartphones through the omnipotent lens of the internet. The internet’s effect on how music is now being created, discovered and distributed is so profound that it’s hard to remember a time when listeners discovered new music from friends and record store clerks rather than music blogs and playlists.

For bands coming up in an era when seemingly everything can be done, seen and heard through the internet, it’s tempting to question the real value of something like touring. Is touring still relevant in the digital age? Yes, actually. More than ever before.

Where are you right now? Are you reading this article on your laptop at a coffeeshop? Or maybe you’re thumbing through it on your smartphone on the train home from work.

Look around you. Everyone’s eyes are constantly glued to some kind of a screen, and this is why the live music experience is more vital now than ever before. No amount of technology can replicate the experience of seeing a band performing their music right in front of your eyes in real time. Live music will always be a distinct and powerful experience because it’s something that can’t be translated to the world of screens.

Yes, at any given moment there’s thousands of bands live-streaming their performances from every corner of the globe that you could watch whenever you like, but that will never substitute the feeling of being there in the venue and experiencing it all for yourself in person. As our culture becomes increasingly reliant on the internet for everyday things, the need to experience nature, visual art and music right there in the moment will become more important than ever. And here’s where your band comes in.

If you make great music that you can pull off well in an engaging performance setting, people will go out of their way by rearranging their night and by paying to see you. Yes, touring is an experience filled with challenges, risk and even financial hardship for some bands, but if you’re viewing what you do as a sort of business, investing in the touring experience might be your best shot at actually earning money as a band.

Many of the fans who’ll jump at the chance to see you play live in their hometown won’t drop a dime on your new record. This is a difficult thing to accept, but it’s true whether we want to blame streaming services like Spotify, rampant music pirating or the shifting attitudes toward the value of media in the digital age. Yes, you’ll probably sell more music if you release your records on vinyl, but even with those increased sales, the days of small bands making a living purely from selling their music are pretty much over now. The live music experience will always be valuable because it can only be experienced in person, and if you’re able to present your music in a truly unique and thrilling way, there be a higher demand for your performances.

But the benefits of touring in 2017 are more than just financial. Hitting the road with your band not only builds tightness and more confidence musically, it can also give you priceless connections with other bands/artists, new fans and music industry folks that you simply couldn’t have established by releasing music and strictly playing shows in your hometown.

Yes, maintaining a social media presence can help with these things, but nothing can substitute the value of human interaction. Talking with a fan after you’ve just gotten off stage is an experience that can’t be matched with a tweet or Facebook comment. And maintaining a constant presence on the road tells press and industry people who might be interested your music know that you’re serious about what you’re doing.

Trends in music come and go every day it seems, but touring is here to stay. Unfortunately, this doesn’t change the fact that a band has to make huge sacrifices for their touring efforts to be worth it. Hitting the road for two weeks over the summer to play a few cities in your region might be fun, but it won’t make a significant difference in whether your band gains traction or not.

If you want to get the most out of hitting the road, you’ll have to book multiple tour routes a year through cities where you think you have the best shot at building a presence in. You and your bandmates will have to walk the thin line between obligations, like careers and relationships at home, and taking the time and energy to build a national presence by frequent touring.

It’s not easy, predictable or simple, but if you’ve been at this game for awhile, you probably already know that nothing in this industry is.

Celebrate TuneCore’s $1 Billion Milestone on Social Media!

Back in June, we announced that within the coming months, TuneCore Artists will be hitting a MAJOR benchmark in its efforts to support the independent artist community: receiving over $1 BILLION collectively in streaming and download revenue!

In an ever-changing industry, artists have had to ensure that their desire to create music can be sustained financially. As more and more platforms for music consumption and discovery have emerged, TuneCore has helped play a role in countless careers by delivering 100% of our artists’ sales revenue month after month. That money may have gone towards rent, instruments/gear, touring, recording or simply eating. Regardless, this figure sends a message that independent music is stronger than ever.

Now, as we count down to the big day (and you can follow along on our website, where a live ‘ticker’ lives), you’re invited to get in on the fun and show your TuneCore Billion Dollar Pride.

If you head over to our Billion Dollar Club page, you can start the celebration by getting your very own Facebook badge and flash your membership credentials. See some examples below:

Once you click “Get The Badge”, a preview will be generated from whatever Facebook account you’re logged in from, and voila – you’ve got a new profile photo!

Want more? We here at TuneCore know that being featured on Spotify playlists is in high-demand these days. Over the next couple of months as we rally to the big financial figure, we’re giving you the chance to be featured on our TuneCore Billion Dollar Club playlist – and we’ve made it pretty easy:

  1. Find your release on Spotify, choose the song you’d like to be featured, and hit play on your mobile device (make sure your cover artwork is visible);
  2. Grab a screenshot of your music playing and upload it/share it via your Instagram account;
  3. Tag your Instagram post with the hashtag #TCBillion.

That’s it! We’ll be updating the Spotify playlist regularly, so keep your eyes peeled for your track in coming weeks. And while you’re at it, be sure to support your fellow indie artists by following the Billion Dollar Club playlist.

As thrilled as we are to hit this major milestone, we know that it couldn’t have been done without YOU, the TuneCore Artists of the world. Let’s continue to show the world that independent music is here to stay. Happy celebrating!

How Musicians Can Take Advantage of Key Digital Trends Towards 2020

[Editors Note: This blog article was written by Michelle Aguilar.]

 

It is probably no surprise that businesses are being transformed by digital platforms such as Facebook. The platform has recently released a report that looks at the different ways in which businesses are being reshaped. Out of the many insights from the report, there are three findings that can be of great use, especially if you are an independent musician.

Consumer Expectations are Increasing

Facebook notes that people are expecting higher quality in mobile experiences and customer service. Reflective of their data, Facebook conversation around ‘user experience’ has been observed to grow considerably. Because of this increase, people are more accepting of surging prices. There is a willingness to pay for more convenience. This highlights the need for business to gain better understanding of the modern customer experience.

As a musician, this data can be applied to the digitalized aspects of your endeavors. Your website, press kit, and social media are all channels you can clean up and modify to make information accessible, easy to navigate, and responsive. You can also compare this to your experience as a user when attempting to connect to a business; you’re more likely to engage more when the experience is without stress or confusion.

Consumer Participation in Ecommerce is Increasing

An increase in globalization has significantly influenced the ecommerce reach. According to Facebook, more than one billion users are connected to another business in another country. Two in three online shoppers have already shopped cross-border. To give you a statistical run-down on people per region around the world are connected to a business in another country:

  • In the US, over 60%
  • In Canada, over 60%
  • In the UK, over 75%
  • In Germany, over 75%
  • In India, over 40%
  • In Japan, over 30%
  • In Indonesia over 45%
  • In Brazil, over 60%
  • In Mexico, over 60%

If people are becoming more willing to make business abroad, it is important that you make your music and music events available internationally available on the web, this includes making your music available on Spotify or other streaming services. You can also include a ‘tip jar’ to your website by creating an account on www.paypal.me—there, people can make donations by sending payments to your PayPal account.

Millennials Are The Most Populous Generation in the U.S 

According to Facebook, it is estimated that by 2020, Millennials will make up half of the global workforce. The Brookings Institution, a non-profit public policy organization, has defined key Millennial values that will shape the future of the American economy—these include:

  • An interest in daily work that reflects and is a part of larger societal concerns.
  • An emphasis on corporate social responsibility, stronger brand loyalty, ethical causes, and ability to offer specific solutions to specific social problems.
  • Respect for the environment.
  • Ability to build communities based on shared interests rather than geographical proximity, which in turn bridges dissimilar groups.

It’s important to become acquainted with the demographics that will make up most of the future workforce. After all, you are ultimately trying to find financial sustainability through your work (work which doesn’t come close to those that have a promising check every other week).And since Millennials listen to 75% more music on a daily basis (ERA) compared to other generations, these insights can serve as a guide to help you better understand your target audience.

Are there any social, economic or environmental issues that you’re interested or passionate about? If not, try to think about your personal interests; there is always someone out there that can relate and you never know, something that makes you tick may do the same for 100 (or more) others.

As an independent musician, staying on track with digital trends can be laborious since most of the time you’re busy producing, searching for gigs and doing a hundred other things to keep the ball rolling. So I hope that this brief recap on Facebook’s digital report can help fine-tune business for you and keep you prepared for your current endeavors!

Do you know of any other social media/digital trends that may be of use for other musicians? How have you managed to stay active on social media platforms? Feel free to share with us below in the comments.