Marketing Is King

Huh?

Weren’t we supposed to live in a word of mouth economy, where the cream rose to the top?

NO!

Actually, never forget that distribution is king. Did you read that NBC tied in with Netflix for the Olympics, with a two hour special? Millennials are cord-cutters, they don’t even see NBC, but they all have Netflix accounts, even if they’re courtesy of mommy and daddy, you’ve got to go where the eyeballs are.

But there’s this illusion that content is king. A canard creators use to pat themselves on the back, to make themselves feel better, after Silicon Valley stole their thunder. Once you hear an artist say he’s not getting paid enough, know that he or she does not have good representatives, or is not good enough period. Like that kerfuffle with Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams and the payment for reshoots on that movie. Mark just had a better agent, he used his leverage. Michelle’s, not so much. Never mind that both agents were working at the same company, what are they calling it this week, “Endeavor”? They take one of the best brands of all time, the ESSENCE of agenting, i.e. “William Morris,” and eradicate it. And we think Ari is gonna triumph with such a blind spot? What hubris!

So in the last decade, when everybody got broadband and the internet burgeoned, the landscape was still comprehensible, we could still find things, we could still notice. Now we’re all overwhelmed. We stay in our own silos. And reaching us is damn near impossible. There are no more viral videos, whether they be of musicians or animals, we’ve seen that paradigm. And legends put out new music and it goes straight into the dumper. U2? Did they really put out an album? I know Jann Wenner put Bono on the cover of “Rolling Stone,” who’s next, Frankie Valli? No wonder the magazine crumpled, unlike MTV it never realized you mustn’t age with your audience, but reinvent yourself and be hip, otherwise you’re toast.

So today you make the product and nobody cares.

Which is why first and foremost you must know who your audience is. It’s all about the data folks, you think your fans know you’re playing in town, you think they know you’ve got new music, BUT THEY DON’T! They’re too busy leading their own lives, they’re overbooked. You post it on your website and issue a press release and think you’ve conquered, but the truth is you haven’t done a thing. Which is why now, more than ever, you must be your own marketer.

Yes, you must know who your fans are and continue to seed them. Knowing the hard core will spread the word if you do something great. Or if you’re over the hill and not doing something noteworthy at least they’ll keep you alive. But if you’ve got something that will spread, that people will like if they experience it, then you must market it, you must sell it.

It was easy in the last century, all you had to do was get it on the radio or MTV! But at least with MTV there was only one station. You either won the derby or you were lost in the wilderness.

Now there’s no platform of choice and we’re all living in the forest.

Except for Tuma Basa with “Rap Caviar.” Why Spotify has not established legends with playlists in other categories I don’t know. They should be taking ads about John Marx, who they stole from SiriusXM, after he broke so many country records, some of them even unsigned. We don’t trust celebrities as tastemakers, that’s passe, they’re all whored out and living in holes, no we want nobodies we believe in, who we exalt, like the legendary deejays of old.

So the question is, HOW DO YOU GET THE WORD OUT?

Because believe me, if you build it they will not come.

This was proven by Steven Soderbergh’s last movie, which he released independently with half the marketing spend and then went straight to the dumper.

If you’re big enough, you buy advertising. But it’s best if the platform you’re on hypes you. Which is why you want to be on Netflix instead of HBO, because people visit more frequently. Which is why you don’t want to make an exclusive music streaming deal, so all services will feature you.

But the truth is no one is listening. Not anymore. This is what the media does not know and does not want to face. Whether it be mainstream or miniscule. They want to believe they’re important, that they have impact and make a difference. But they don’t.

The “New York Times” doesn’t reach the Fox audience and there’s nothing wrong with getting screen time, but it’s just an element of your marketing, not the whole kahuna. Appear on late night TV and no one will know.

You’ve got to have traction. Starting from zero it’s hard to become a hero. If people are not reacting to what you’re doing, give up, really, or change direction. That’s what they do in Silicon Valley, PIVOT, why can’t you?

And then you must seed your hard core fans, who can never get enough, and then take every bite and explore every nook and cranny to try and get noticed. If we see your name here and there, multiple places, we’re intrigued. As long as it’s not the same damn story. When I read the same press release in multiple publications I laugh. And as long as you’ve got something worth selling. And now, more than ever, we want personal. If you’re not willing to lay it on the line, shut up.

As for pissing off the naysayers…FUHGETTABOUTIT!

When everybody has a voice, they use it. They get angry that you’re not paying attention. They’re haters. It’s deafening, all the responses, assuming you’re getting any at all, but he or she who blinks is left out. They hate you until they love you. Or they love you until they hate you.

So concentrate on your product. In a world where Amazon reviews mean everything, if you ain’t got ’em, you’re toast. I won’t read a book with a three star review, life’s too short. You need at least a four to reach me. Sorry!

But once your product is set in stone… Then the challenge begins.

Which is why publishers are up in arms over Facebook’s changes. That’s where they do their marketing, turns out people don’t want to go directly to the news site, they want it all put together.

Meanwhile, Apple’s got one of the best news apps extant and no one knows or cares, because they’re too busy apologizing for the revolutionary iPhone. Now naysayers say it must be hobbled, it’s hastening the end of society. WRONG! It’s your obligation to put this fantastic device down, not for them to cripple it. What next, cars with less horsepower that can only go 25 miles an hour? While we’re at it, why don’t we put a Pentium in your computer and get rid of browsers and multitasking!

All this is featured in the “New York Times” day after day, a reaction to the future. BUT YOU LIVE IN THE FUTURE! WE ALL DO! ACCEPT IT!

When you hear people railing against Spotify payments, ignore them, they’ve got too much time on their hands, they’re probably not making any money anyway, or like Michelle Williams they have a bad representative and a bad deal.

We live in an era of winners and losers. If you’re satiated with your niche, more power to you, if you’re not…

No amount of bitching is gonna help you. You must sit and contemplate how to get the word out. Ten years ago it was Starbucks. Just recently it was Facebook. This is where the innovation comes in. Who can get their message heard?

That’s your challenge.

“NBC is Using Netflix to advertise the 2018 Winter Olympics”

Tony Hawk-This Week’s Podcast

Skateboarding experienced a revolution in the seventies and then died. And then a renaissance. Then another death. Tony’s sponsor went out of business. He bought a house with his earnings and had to sell it, eating ramen just to stay alive. And when his partners in Birdhouse told him that he was best skating instead of sitting behind a desk, he went out and competed and became the Tony Hawk you know today. Quite possibly the most famous athlete in the world. Musicians come and go through the TuneIn studio, but the staff needed Tony’s autograph, they grew up playing his videogames!

And we hear that story here. Along with how Tony went from suburbanite to icon.

Not that he acts that way. But after having a stylist and doing awards shows he decided to be himself 24/7 and is much more comfortable, and still skating.

You see skateboarding is a culture. Jan & Dean popularized it in the sixties, but it wasn’t until the midseventies that an equipment revolution blew the sport up.

And then came the injuries and the noise and the attitude and the closing of pools, curbs and parks, but the ethos could never be buried. Because skating is about being free. In a world where everybody’s conforming. You don’t think you are, but…

Now Tony’s not an outlaw who went to jail. He comes from a middle class family, but he did fly to Japan to appear on TV in his teens. He did make more money than his teachers in high school and figured there was no point in going to college, since he already had a career. And Tony is SMART!

Funny how people get mic fright. Funny how people can’t tell their story. Funny how inarticulate so many are. But not Tony! It’s so weird talking to him, because he’s just like you, only different. Someone you can relate to yet is world famous. Someone intrigued by the toys who can laugh at himself yet is devoted to raising his kids.

Tony made it work. Not that it was all laid out in front of him, it’s just that he stayed the path and rode the wave, or in this case the street.

And he gives back.

And if you can find someone to say a bad word about Tony Hawk I haven’t heard it.

So in this podcast we get his story. From an upbringing with two older siblings to his parents taking him to competitions to the X Games to the videogames. Hell, I think you’ll be fascinated even if you’ve never ridden the wild asphalt!

So, once again, you can listen here:

TuneIn

Apple Podcasts

Google Play

Stitcher

Soundcloud

Overcast

What I Almost Was

What I Almost Was

But I thank God I ain’t what I almost was

Maybe your parents were hands-off, maybe you wandered through life blindly. But then you weren’t the child of Jewish parents, not the progeny of immigrants, who want to ensure their children are prepared.

And today it’s even worse. The kids are smarter than the adults. They know the score. They know if you’re not getting ahead you’re falling behind. That you can’t even get a job without a college degree, that you need graduate school to triumph. That life is hard and if you meander and get high and drift the joke is on you, you’ve got to move into your parents’ basement while your old friends are making down payments and having babies.

So our country is divided between winners and losers. Haves and have-nots. It’s every person for themselves, and as a result society is coarse, so we look to art for inspiration, to get us through. And what do we hear in music? Nonsense. Or how much better the performer’s life is than ours. Hell, that’s what social networks are built upon. No one puts a bad hair day on Instagram unless it’s a joke, we’re all worried about our image instead of our true identity. But then you hear something like Eric Church’s “What I Almost Was” and you raise your fist in the air and a smile creeps over your face…

If you lead this life.

Reminds me of freshman year at Middlebury. A pre-med student was pissed he got a C when he always got A’s. So he went to the teacher to bitch. Now I grade-grubbed in high school, we all did. But I was one point away from the next grade in Anthro 101 and I didn’t bother to go to the teacher, after all I was in college, why did this guy do it I asked him… TO GET INTO A GOOD GRADUATE SCHOOL!

That’s when I took the road not taken. Gave up. I couldn’t be that person anymore. And this resulted not only in a mediocre GPA, at a college where no one got an A anyway, but outcast status. You were supposed to go to the library and study, not lead your life. You were supposed to jump through hoops. I was sick of that.

I did go to law school. A waste of time. But it was the worst snow year in Utah, there was no skiing, and I fell into my first real relationship and that carried me through, but I could have lived without going, because my life has been one of self-education, my own journey. Business people tell me I’m doing it wrong.

But it’s right for me.

Which is why I grinned when I heard the live version of “What I Almost Was” from Eric Church’s “61 Days In Church.”

It was my senior year
I just turned eighteen
I was a Friday night hero, with Division I dreams

No platitudes here. Church drops ” Division I,” the big leagues of college sports. Institutions that have ceased being ones of higher learning. Pay the damn players, they’re taking joke courses and the coaches make more than professors, isn’t this a scourge upon society? I think so.

I had an offer on the table
A four year ride
‘Til that fourth and two and twenty four dive
I left on a stretcher, wound up on a crutch

My father always told me to live by my mind. The physical comes and goes. Especially in sports. A chance of fate and your career is sidelined, like those guys in “Hoop Dreams.”

Walked on that next summer
Wound up getting cut
Flipped off that coach, left that school in the dust
For letting my dreams go bust

Nothing feels worse than getting cut, from back when all males tried out for sports, when that list was posted in the gym and your name was not on it not only did your heart sink, it sank for days and weeks, you were not playing, you cleaned out your locker and lay on your bed depressed.

And we always hear it’s about trying, that you can do anything if you put your mind to it. But that’s patently untrue. He got cut, it was over.

As for flipping off the coach…

Forget the hotheads. They’re out there making trouble for themselves. But are you too afraid to stand up for yourself? That’s what being an artist is all about, lines in the sand you won’t cross, things you won’t do, the pushback.

Yea, I moved on back home
And came awful close to being some son-in-law to some CEO

You can picture it! He’s got this opportunity, he can slide right into a role. It’ll all work.

Could have been a corner office, country club, suit and tie man
Answerin’ to no one, but her and him

You see these people at the country club, the legacies, people following in their parents’ footsteps, doing what’s expected of them, they’ve got the perks but they’re dead on the inside.

I ran out on his money, ran out on her love
At four in the morning I loaded my truck
I left my home town in a big cloud of dust
I just had to follow my gut
And thank God I ain’t what I almost was

He ESCAPED! Left in the middle of the night so no one would see him, no one would convince him otherwise. He was running on emotion instead of intellect. Had to go with what he was feeling. Even though this is harder than ever because of the aforementioned economics. Nobody picks up and moves, they can’t afford to. But he did.

In a guitar town I bought this old Epiphone

Notice the Steve Earle reference? If not, stop reading this and immediately cue up his debut “Guitar Town” and get an education.

Started stringin’ chords and words into songs
I’ve been putting in time on 16th Avenue
Pouring out my heart for tips on a stool

This ain’t no fairy tale. He’s paying his dues, for bupkes.

I ain’t making a killing, but then there’s those nights
When the song comes together and hits ’em just right
The crowd’s on their feet ’cause they can’t get enough
Of this music I make and I love

The moments. They’re fulfilling, they’re signposts. They make it all worth it. They make you believe you’re on the right path.

And I thank God I ain’t, yea I thank God I ain’t
Man I thank God ain’t what I almost was

BINGO!

I have doubts. All of us taking the path less taken do. There’s no safety net, no guarantee. But the moments of triumph make it all worth it. This is what you were not only born to do, but decided to do.

This is why the music resonated with us. Because the artists took chances we didn’t, had insight we didn’t, they inspired us. Books and records charted the course of my life, I could not be denied, I tried to go straight, but it didn’t work, that’s for someone else.

Now there’s a studio take of this song, it flew right by me a decade ago. But this solo acoustic number fits right into the canon of what once and forever shall be. Songs written and performed straight from the heart. Where it’s less about the best voice or the ability to play than laying down your own personal truth that no one else can nail.

I’ve seen Church strut the stage with a cigar in his lips. I’ve seen him say no. I’m convinced this forty year old guy believes who he is, he’s not veering from the path.

Not all of us can do this.

But we all want to.

And when we listen to “What I Almost Was”… Either we know we’re on the right path or it’s time to change.

It’s never too late. Money isn’t everything. Approval neither. It’s about an inner mounting flame that makes you feel you’re doing it right.

Pay attention to your inner beacon.

Get in touch with it by playing “What I Almost Was.”

61 Days In Church

Eric Church-live covers

No one knows about this because it was exclusive to Apple Music for two weeks. Do this, and the rest of the streaming providers don’t lift a finger, they’ll add your music when they can, but they’re not about to promote it.

How could Church’s people be so stupid?

This is what happens when you enter the Apple alternate reality cloud, they suck you in and your thoughts are distorted thinking you’re getting ahead when you’re really falling behind. I’m a huge Church fan, I even know him and his management team, but I was unaware of this project, and it’s FANTASTIC, GROUNDBREAKING!

You see Church is essentially bootlegging his own material.

Prior to the internet the model was one of scarcity. Limited product, dribbled out. Now everything is available for free on YouTube and live cuts mean little and pay even less. So why not put out your own live recordings on streaming services and get paid for it!

That’s what Eric Church has done here. That’s what all acts should do. Fans want more, GIVE IT TO THEM!

So there’s a vinyl box costing nearly five hundred bucks for the diehards. And the thing is everybody’s got diehard fans who will pop for this stuff. That’s the model Patreon is built upon. Nobodies making a living on superfans.

But the average person can listen to the songs streaming and it’s a REVELATION!

You see I was bouncing through my country favorites, and Church came across my mind and I searched on him in Spotify and I came up with these live compilations “61 Days In Church,” and there are four volumes already, of 30 plus songs each! Can you imagine?

Assuming you’re a fan. If you’re not, you may not cotton to Church’s nasal delivery. But the choice of material will wow you.

He plays my favorite from “Eat A Peach,” the Allmans’ “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More.” The Faces’ “Ooh La La.” John Anderson’s “Seminole Wind.” Marshall Tucker’s “Heard It In A Love Song.” “Chain Of Fools”? CHEVY VAN???

If this does not make you want to go to the show, you were never a fan to begin with.

If you are a fan, this project bonds you to him.

I’m gonna make a playlist of some of these covers. Click through ’em, crack up. This is a guy with roots and he’s willing to evidence them. Isn’t that what a musician does?

61 Days In Church