Marketing Your Music: Rynda Laurel on Social Media, Visual Marketing & Philanthropy
Hello Zooglers! Welcome to a new series of blog posts where we will interview experts in music marketing to offer tangible advice for artists and bands. We’re kicking things off with an interview with Rynda Laurel:
Rynda is a partner at DigiStar which is focused on working with established music artists and iconic entertainers on a variety of content and marketing initiatives. She also consults for various startup and technology companies. You will often find her speaking at international conferences including Social Media Week, DigitalLA, Girls in Tech, Canadian Music Week, MaMA Music, East Coast Music, MIDEM and SXSW.
As part of her belief and passion for giving back, she founded CauseWeRock, is on the advisory board of Sweet Relief and has participated in philanthropic events such as DigitalLA Green, Fair Fund, Twestival, Live Earth and MusiCares MAPFund.
Q: With all of the free social media networks out there, is having your own website still important for artists today?
Yes without a doubt. That’s like asking if we need the sun to survive. A dedicated website with your name as the url is crucial. It is the life force of your social media and digital universe. Let the platform of planets revolve around you not you around them. We once thought the earth was the center of the universe like Facebook does now – then we discovered that we revolved around the sun. Same thing. Really all planets (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, MySpace, etc..) should revolve around the sun. Wow did I just go there? I wonder what @astroengine would say about that!
Q: Once an artist is using social media, what should they be talking about?
If artists start thinking of using these tools as another creative outlet as opposed to a chore their parents (aka mangers) asked them to do then it should come naturally.
That said- there are many ways to express who they are as a person and as an artist. Although some fans want to know the intimate details of their morning shower, what they really want to know is what makes an artist tick. Is it other artists? pop culture? world news? movies? sports? nature? food? photography? science? clowns? Talk about it.
I’d also say that expression and connection can be made without words. The Twilight Singers, for example, post beautiful photographs, art and random music videos of artists of all genres intertwined with fan photos, personal photos, interviews, show dates and live videos. It is perfect for them – it expresses their artistic and musical tastes without saying a word literally -it is authentic to who they are.
I can guarantee every artist is a fan of another artist. Someone inspired them to play music – hopefully it was Led Zeppelin. If they asked themselves what they, as fans would want to know about their favorite artist through these tools and do that – then they are on the right track.
Q: “Direct-to-fan” is a big buzz phrase these days, is it a passing fad or here to stay?
A passing fad? If you mean like the 60’s-gone but influencing every generation after? Then it’s still no. Direct-to-fan is really nothing new there are just no middle-multi-million dollar salaried-men in between the artist and the fan anymore. The fans won’t have it. The system has broken down. It’s the “Summer of Love” for artists and fans.
Q: How focused should artists be today on interacting with their fans?
Here again if the artist starts thinking of these fans as part of their family and artistic community they will want to interact with them. Fans are the artists extended family-not always chosen but loved none the less. How could they not interact with them?
Q: What is branding and should artists pay attention to it?
They shouldn’t. They should just make sure everything has the same “look and feel” across all of their “creative spaces” which includes their “album” art, website, social media platforms, press materials and merch. A good logo never hurt anyone either. Think about Foo Fighters – see the double F’s? The Doors in block font? Basically an artist wants to be VISUALLY MEMORABLE – that is all branding is to me.
Some technical advice: Hexadecimal (Hex) codes- figure out what they are. Pick three and use them everywhere. Use the same font everywhere. Have a square logo and photo – all social media avatars are square.
Q: You’re quite the avid photographer, what advice would you give to artists about photos? Is a good band photo important for their promotion/marketing efforts?
Yes, I started taking live photos of bands many many years ago and realized I could make time stand still for just a fraction of a second. It is magic. I’ve shot band press shots before too – it is about using the tools (lighting, framing, processing/filters) to bring out the “essence” of who they are as artists.
Advice for artists? It is about expressing yourself in an artistic manner that shows in one shot who you are as an artist at that point in time. Be authentic and don’t let a stylist tell you how to dress.
An Artist “press” photo is important in the over all “look and feel” so it should match your “visually memorable” goal.
Q: How much time initially do you think artists should be spending on marketing/promotion vs. rehearsals/creation, etc.?
Initially: As in an artist just starting out? First, practice, practice, practice. Write good songs with melodies and lyrics that will resonate with people. Practice some more. Write more songs. Practice. LOVE what you do. Write another song. Come up with a great band name if you need one. Practice. Record a few and see how everyone works under pressure, write more songs, practice, record some demos, practice, book some gigs, play around town, (maybe start an e-mail newsletter list around this time) make sure you like your bandmates – you will have to live with them in a dark smelly van – practice – write more songs – and by then if you still want to do it, practice some more, write another song, and if you still want to do it then… take a handful of those songs and put them in a format that people can hear while you are not there (like a CD or digital download) and then……
…Tackle “the look and feel” “visually memorable” non marketing marketing by getting your “press materials” together and building your website and THEN start sharing on social media. If the drummer hasn’t quit by then he/she will probably do it.
Q: Most marketing & promotional talk these days is about online strategies and social media, but what offline strategies should artists also be focusing some attention on?
All strategy should probably focus on the live performances. PERIOD.(see why I suggested they practice?) That is essentially one of the main ways artists make money. It will be slow at first but I will tell you that I’ve seen plenty of multi-platinum artists who now sell out stadiums play their ass off for 10 people on a Tuesday night. All strategies should be about getting people to your shows – which goes back to online strategies and platforms that help you book gigs and sleep on people’s couches. (see: @betterthanthevan)
Q: Philanthropy is very important in your career, do you think it’s important for artists to give back through work with charitable organizations?
Philanthropy is important to me personally. I have been lucky enough to be in a career where I can use my relationships to facilitate opportunities and I am proud to be on the advisory board for @SweetRelief. It is important for an artist to be authentic- so if giving back is part of who they are as people then of course they should. There are many ways to give back and of course different levels. (FYI Artists – check out @downtime)
Q: When an artist supports a cause, is there a danger of being pigeon-holed? Can you possibly support a cause too much?
If an artist is passionate about a cause then they can do as much as they want for a cause – the only “pigeon-hole” danger is when it comes to politics and/or issues that are considered “moral” issues. Again, if an artist feels strongly about it then more power to them – for example artists like Steve Earle & Tom Morello are known for their activism and it suites them.
Q: Bonus question: I read somewhere that you’ve met Elmo?! Please explain the context of that, and also, please tell us if he’s as tempting to tickle as he appears to be.
HA! Yes, I spent 8 years at Sony Wonder, the children’s division of Sony. There I worked on multiple Sesame Street projects including they 35th anniversary box set. He is quite ticklish. An even better story is when I told David Bowie – jokingly of course- that we wanted him to dress up as Big Bird and go on tour with Elmo. Luckily he got my humor and laughed along. True story.