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The Internet For Jazz Musicians

Chuck Anderson By

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The internet holds enormous potential for jazz musicians. Many of us have little to no idea of how to take advantage of it. We tend to have websites, Facebook and maybe Twitter. How many of us are happy with the results we get from our efforts?

After much searching, I have found evolvor.com. The following interview was conducted with Eric Hebert CEO of Evolvor Media on the subject of maximizing exposure through the internet.

All About Jazz: How has the internet changed how music is marketed?

Eric Hebert: I think in the past, musicians mostly relied on record labels to do their marketing for them. This usually involved "selling" an "image" to the masses.

While this still works, it requires a ton of money.

The thing the web has done is enabled all of us to build our own communities through things like Facebook, Twitter, and blogging about the experiences of being a musician. This interaction is actually the marketing for your music.

AAJ: Is having a well designed website enough for a jazz musician?

EH: Well, that depends on what you mean by "well designed." One of the first missteps that I find musicians taking is worrying about their site's "design"—most are only thinking in terms of graphic design. They think their site should be "flashy" and stand out.

While having nice graphics is a PART of a well designed site, it's just a portion. A well designed site should focus on giving the visitor access to as much content as they want to read or check out. It needs to be easy to navigate. It must be search engine friendly. It must provide calls-to-action to entice the casual visitor to sign up to your email list to download a track.

A well designed site these days is also more than just a billboard for your music. It should be built with WordPress (a content management system) so the artist can easily add content like blog posts and allow the visitor to comment, etc.

I wouldn't say that's it's "enough" for the musician to just have a well designed site, but if used properly, it sure can play a major role in how you market yourself as well as how you plan on generating revenue.

AAJ: What do musicians not understand about the internet?

EH: I don't think musicians, or anyone for that matter, really understands marketing or branding—that's the problem. Building a brand these days is all about building communities or "tribes" and connecting with them by providing them with information. This can easily be done via the web because it's so easy to set up blogs and social networking tools.

Think about how you found out about me and your perception of my brand. Most find me via Google search about music marketing information. They then learn something by reading my blog content. This content backs up the brand and the services I offer. Then the visitor can connect with me via email or Twitter or what have you, and I then get a new "fan" and possible client.

The same approach can be had for a band or musician. Build your tribe, constantly interact with them in a way that makes them fall in love with your music, and learn how to sell products to them over the web. I think that last point needs to be addressed as well about musicians "not understanding the Internet." One thing they never think about is selling digital content as a main source of revenue of trying to sell a CD. There is a market for selling digital memberships to fans if you can create compelling content that they just need to have.

AAJ: What is your background and how did it lead you to your current activity?

EH: It's kind of a funny story when I look back on it actually. I have always been very entrepreneurial and right out of high school I wanted nothing to do with college—I wanted to start my own business. A few years between jobs and failed business start-ups, I attended an Internet marketing workshop and was hooked. It ended up being a scam, but I learned a lot about search engine marketing that day and it changed my life.

That was 6 years ago. I basically taught myself everything about publishing on the web since then, and after a few years of building and marketing websites for myself and others, I started blogging. It started out as a marketing blog, but I found myself having fun with a music post one day and I got a lot of buzz for it. A few months later I was contacting a band I liked because their site was broken. A light bulb went off in my head and I decided I would shift my focus to blogging about how the web was changing for musicians and how to apply my marketing knowledge to assist them. Before you know it I was attracting bands and industry professionals and here we are today.

AAJ: Explain search optimization.

EH: That's a tough one to answer quickly without putting you to sleep. Many people think they understand SEO, few actually do. SEO is two things—how your website is constructed and how much attention you get from other websites (and that's the most important part). You have to make sure that Google can read all the content on your website, and you then have to make sure you get other websites to hyperlink to that content.

AAJ: What is the role of digital content in today's music industry?

EH: I think it's the main format if you're looking to really interact with your fans. This is of course all outside of making a living as a touring musician, which really should be the number one revenue generator for musicians. However, if you can create really compelling digital content, whether that's recorded music, behind the scenes videos, training materials, films—all these things can be sold in different formats via the web, and offers you a different business model then the traditional music industry is used to.

AAJ: Should your website be the hub of all your activities and content?

EH: I think so. If done properly, you can maximize your efforts by making your website the center of everything, and use tools like RSS to syndicate your content to things like MySpace, Twitter, and Facebook, and try to convert those fans into email fans. The email list is your most important asset and you need to create a fan funnel where you bring them in and get them to sign up to that list.

AAJ: How do you organize your work on behalf of the client?

EH: Another big part of working on the web is just knowing how to organize yourself and use tools to make communicating easier, especially when the client is 1,000 miles away in a different country. I think using project management tools like Basecamp is REALLY important—I get to have all my project files and correspondence with the client stored in a nice location on the web that I can access at any time.

The other really useful tool is Gmail. I love it when a client I have uses Gmail, can access Gchat, and share documents using Google docs. All this is so much easier for collaboration then the old "send me the file" routine. And the new Google Wave product is sure to make this process that much better for real-time collaboration on documents.

AAJ: How do challenges vary from client to client?

EH: The major challenge in this business is actually finding clients that have money to hire me—musicians for the most part are broke. Juggling clients and some of my other SEO and social media work is tough, and after doing it for three years, it kind of got a little frustrating. That's why I teamed up with Greg Rollett from genyrockstars to create Label 2.0, an interactive learning environment for musicians. Musicians who can't afford a marketing team can instead learn from them, and it's providing me with a chance to finally meet the needs of these musicians.

Other challenges I suppose are trying to change the mindset of the musician. The business model is changing—it's no longer about selling CD's, and that's the hardest thing for musicians to let go of. New bands need to not focus on selling a CD and instead focus on giving their music away for free, building a fanbase, and then looking at what kinds of products, both physical and digital, that they can offer to these fans to create a sustainable business.

Goal setting is also a challenge. Most musicians just "want to get heard" and become rock stars over night.

AAJ: How optimistic are you for clients that contract you?

EH: Not too optimistic—as I mentioned earlier, the financial challenge is tough. I'll spend hours of time in correspondence with people and get nothing for it, but so is the way with any kind of consulting I imagine. It's also tough when people expect you to have some "magic potion" solution to marketing that's going to sell them tons of albums. It just doesn't work that way.

AAJ: Are there clients that you would turn down and if so, why?

EH: I told a musician once that I wouldn't take his money because I thought his "product," in this case his music, wasn't going to work. This person then got defensive and told me that I shouldn't be turning down anyone who wants to pay for my services. I have a line where if I thought I was cheating someone out of money by building them a site or trying to market something I thought was not good, I wouldn't do it.

I'm sure their are other reasons I would turn down clients, whether it be offensive content or their goals or what-have you.

AAJ: Are jazz musicians less knowledgeable about this process than rock bands or singer—songwriters?

EH: To be honest, you've got more going on than the average bear, and that's what's exciting to be working with you. You're also open to the ideas I have and the things I want to accomplish, and it's such a relief. Many regular bands just want to be rock stars, and breaking the bad news to them that it's not realistic is tough, I would imagine the typical jazz musician doesn't have that mindset, they understand the "niche" aspects and that's important.

AAJ: What one piece of information would be most helpful in steering musicians in a profitable direction?

EH: As Yoda says, "un-learn what you have learned." The days of selling CDs are over, you need to understand how to create multiple revenue streams in order to be successful. It's basic business 101 stuff, grasp it and you have a shot at being profitable.

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