Posts filed under ‘artist series’
Mykel Exner is the Bassist for the band “Kill Matilda”. He recently sent my friend, Bill Allman, an email in which he thanked Bill (who taught him at Trebas Institute) for emphasizing that a band must not leave their promotion to management and the importance of taking control of your own brand and management. Bill told me about the email and I asked Mykel to participate in an email interview about artist promotion. Fortunately, he agreed. Here’s what he had to say. (Note: I took my questions out here as it flowed better without them.)
About the band
Kill Matilda is a do-it-yourself band that has been touring Canada since 2009. We are a 4-piece female-fronted hard rock band that began in Vancouver and has since based itself out of Montreal and South Western Ontario. We’ve self-produced, recorded, released and promoted our self-titled EP along with 3 music videos to support the release – one of which, “She’s A Killer” has been put into rotation on MUCHLOUD, providing us with national exposure. We’ve gone from complete unknowns to playing large festivals like NXNE and opening for acts like Econoline Crush and Die Mannequin. We are blessed with an amazing front person, Dusty, with a killer voice. We have been making a reputation for ourselves for putting on high-energy, fun to watch live shows. We’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the most talented and dedicated artists and professionals, who’ve seen value in our project and have helped us by lending the skills and talents that have brought us to new levels that we never thought possible.
The DIY Movement
Initially, when you first dream of being in a “well-known” band, you dream about being “discovered” by someone and having them take you and your music to the heights of being a “rock-star” – or even just simply heard and appreciated by a larger audience. The reality of the music industry today is that NOBODY is willing to take the chance with their money or time to push and promote an artist that isn’t already making a name for themselves.
We’re facing a crisis in the Canadian music industry where “Music Industry Professionals” are not equipped with the skills and know-how to even make posters to promote shows they organize. Bar owners don’t see the value in investing in promotion for shows that are booked in their establishments and most bands don’t even know how to begin to promote themselves or the shows that they are a part of. From the inside of this beast, the system looks broken. If you aren’t a jack of all trades, i.e. a photoshop pro – a video editor – a photo editor – a booking agent- along with being an artist and performing musician, you’ll never have anyone take notice of your music or project.
No one is going to take you by the hand, discover you, put you on the cover of the Rolling Stone, put your song on the radio, pick out your first single or do anything for you… unless you’re willing to pay for it… and pay big for it
How Kill Matilda raised nearly $2000 in donations in a week via their merchandising sitelet
We’ve investigated fundraising options out there like pledgemusic.com and others but the thought of “All or Nothing” fundraising really scared the crap out of us. In reality we didn’t need a lot of money to help us reach our goals. One big incentive we found helped make it easier for fans to help us was to include a limited time offer to have their name in the credits of our new album “I Want Revenge”. That push really drove a lot of the action we saw. Providing those unique and one of a kind incentives to your fans really open the door to their wallets.
Building an fan-base online
Basically, we built a strong online fanbase through having a lot of good content online and following that up with a killer live show. We have Youtube videos of us bringing people along on tour, and we provide personal experiences for our fans when they come to our shows. We interact with our fans online a lot and I think that providing that personal interaction combined with kicking some ass on stage live over a long period of time really helped us achieve some of our goals and gave our fans a feeling of being a part of our growth and pride in “growing” with us.
Here is one piece of free advice to performing bands… Mention your Facebook Page on stage as a part of your banter. We urge our new fans to like us on Facebook so we can connect with them and comment on pictures of their cats..dogs…babies… all of that. Give your audience directions and where exactly they can find you. It’s amazing going home after a good gig and logging onto Facebook having fans “requesting” your friendship and “Liking”and commenting on your page.
In 2010, before we left Vancouver we asked our fans which track off the Kill Matilda EP they would like to see made into a music video and through a series of votes and comments they picked “Fault Lines”. It was a pretty fun experience to see people actually care and provide their opinions on what Kill Matilda should do next. Ask your fans questions about what they like… what they don’t like… those sort of exercises get your existing fans talking about you and thinking about you when they start thinking about a question you’ve asked, or associate you with the topic you got them thinking about.
Promoting the “She’s a Killer” video (viewed over 14,000 times on YouTube).
The key is constantly reposting and sharing and reposting and sharing. Encourage your fans to do the same for you. Research who promotes music videos online in your genre, show them and talk to them about your video. Create an “online street team” to post your video on relevant pages and just don’t be afraid to share and re-share! We’ve used “She’s A Killer” to promote Kill Matilda to new listeners and used the video to help us gather a lot of opportunities. (BTW!!! If you like that video share it!)
Social Media in general
Social Media has basically been responsible for Kill Matilda being able to have reached where it has today. Just being able to exist, get further, reach more people, have them listen to our music, watch our videos and enjoy it is really amazing and fun. Without it we wouldn’t be able to operate at all.
My personal favorite was tweeting at Bif Naked and having her check us out. She loved and shared my personal favorite Kill Matilda song, “Geisha With A Switchblade” with her followers. Being a big Canadian rock fan-boy that make me feel like a kid again.
Tips for musicians doing DIY promotion
- Be pro-active not RE-active. Have your own website. Facebook/Myspace/Twitter profiles are good, but a dotcom is the BEST!
- If you don’t care to share about your bands shows or videos or songs online… then why should anyone care about it? Think about your comparables… sound like Tool? then go after Tool’s fans… Sound like Radiohead? Go after Radiohead’s fans. Don’t think you sound like anyone? Then ask someone else. You have to have a comparable otherwise no one will care at all.
- Don’t just promote your music! Promote all music you think is good! Promote other bands shows! Let people know that you are a part of a scene and that you care about not just your success but the success of your favorite bands and your friends bands.
- Learn that there is a difference out there between a “booking agent” and a “promoter” ANYONE can book a show, cats and dogs can book shows. It’s a simple process of saying, “Hey you wanna play at this place at this time?” Booking agents do not promote shows. Get this through your head and you will not be disappointed when no one shows up to your show. Take control of your own promotion because quite simply, the booking agent, the bar owners, the other bands and fans that don’t know about you DONT CARE who you are if you dont give them a reason to care. Its amazing how many show posters we here at Kill Matilda have been required to make for booking agents across Canada. If you allow someone else to control your destiny… to poster for you… to promote for you… to hold your hand and tell you its going to be alright… you might wanna take up another lifestyle choice.
- It is EVERY member of a band’s job to promote. One person should take the lead of course in being pages and website admins BUT if your lead guitarist is “too-cool” to promote… stick your foot in their ass and set them on the right track. No one is too cool to promote, except for bands and musicians that no one has ever heard of or cares about.
Find Kill Matilda:
Want to learn more about Artist promotion? You might also enjoy other posts in my Artist Series.
I’ll be speaking tonight at Projecting Change through Social Media (Club), an informational session for the Projecting Change Film Festival. Stephanie Michelle Scott (my Twitter Workshop/Twitter Parlour partner) and I are conducting sessions on Twitter – however, since we are both passionate about film and have a film backgrounds we’ll also discuss some tips/examples with regards to social media for film in general.
Here are some of my thoughts.
Promotion (is a part of your production)
- Find Your Audience Early. Figure out who your audience will be (you likely already know) and start reaching out early. Start your research ASAP and begin building your audience relationships pre-and during filming.
- Generate and Release Content. Consider what you can put out to create interest during the process. What kinds of material would flesh out your story more (text, video, pics) or give it an added dimension. Remember that your characters had a life before the film too. (In a post on this topic I wrote: “Allowing the character to live in other platforms before the film is released – and whilst the film is being made – gives the character a larger/broader life – and helps with publicity.”
- Twitter can be an additional platform for the story. Perhaps you could take pictures and create a part of the story that goes out only via this medium.
- Get the audience (and others on Twitter) involved via a Twitter chat. If the film is screening on television have people watch and live-tweet or comment (use something like Cover-it-Live)
- Are there characters who were interesting but received little screen time? Can they become more of a part of the story online?
- If there are follow-ups to the non-fictional account you provide in the film, allow the people involved to record a video about what has happened since.
- Targeting and Blogger Outreach. You are best to truly pitch bloggers when you have something to actually show them, content-wise. (As you know, everyone wants to make a film – but few actually end up completing one.) Really contemplate who would be interested in your project – don’t just target the most popular film-related blogs. Remember that your audience isn’t only composed of film fans and people who read movie-themed blogs. If you’re making a documentary about, say, dancers struggling to find work, you might reach out to others who blog about similar struggles. You’ll get more buy-in if you:
- Remember to personalize the pitch as much as possible.
- Target those who might be truly be interested – not just because their blog is of the same general genre as the film. (Meh: “you write a humorous blog and this is a comedy film”. Better: “You write about the craziness of the internet – and that’s what our film is about!”) Note: this takes a fair bit of research – but it might be worth it.
- Consider the blogger’s time. As is frequently mentioned – for most, blogging is a hobby and a labour of love. Watching a trailer might happen. Watching an entire film is less likely.
- Address what’s in it for them. Don’t be smarmy about it – but if there can be something in it for them, let them know. Often this aspect is neglected and the pitch is is basically: “Here’s how you can help us out!” – without addressing why they would want to.
This is a great way to get clips for your film – even if it’s just short clips or vignettes – providing your outreach tactics are effective. A few examples of films that have invited people to submit clips for their productions include:
- “Life in a Day“: Director Kevin MacDonald and Producer Ridley Scott invited creators from all over the world to capture their world in 24hrs on a single day (July 24, 2010) and upload to YouTube. The winning content was then edited into the final film, a Sundance hit. (Watch trailer).
- Of course, not everyone has the clout and reputation of these mainstream directors. But independent productions can also fare well in obtaining crowd submissions. For instance, “Lost Zombies“ received thousands of submissions of “zombie encounters” – far more than anticipated. (They are now in the final submission stage. More information about the project on the Lost Zombie site, on this post and on 4D Fictions post/interview.)
- “DSB the Movie” a film which “tells the story of the Netherland’s DSB Bank NV which was declared bankrupt by court in October, 2009.” All elements of this film were crowdsourced including the film’s logo, producer, scriptwriters, soundtrack, editor, camera, actors, and publicity. (Read about it on David Meerman Scott‘s post – which includes an interview with the director.) Crowdsourcing everything is not something I would recommend doing – but it certainly worked for this production.
For a documentary film, audience-produced content can be particularly compelling since people can submit their own, personal, experiences – and particularly cost-effective since people can be filming anywhere rather than your sending crews to other locations.
Here’s where your social media savvy can really come into play. Filmmakers are now asking people to micro-fund their film – be it by simply asking for funds, offering financers credits in return for cash, or selling products to make some money.
Getting people interested in financing some aspect of your film will be (slightly) easier if you have something to show them. Which is why compiling materials and working on YouTube videos early on about your production will be doubly useful.
Keep in mind – it might take a number of years to get the money you need.
Spanner Films has written a useful guide on how to Crowdfund your film includes the following tidbit:
“If you are planning to make a campaigning film like The Age of Stupid, then you should definitely try to find a way to access the people out there who are already aware of and give a monkeys about the issue you want to highlight. If you can get some campaigners believing in your idea early on then they can be a huge help finding investors. You need to explain clearly why investing in your film is a strategic and cost-effective way to further your cause.”
A few examples of projects being crowdfunded include: “I Am I“, “My Million Dollar Movie” and “Iron Sky” which, writes Ross Dawson, has “four different mechanisms for raising money directly: a store selling merchandise such as T-shirts, a sneak peek of the first minutes of the film for which fans can pay any amount from 1 Euro, Fan Investments for qualified investors and up to 99 individuals in EU and some other countries, and ‘War Bonds‘, which are basically framed certificates.”
There are also many examples of productions (e.g. Paranoid Park, Moderation Town) which cast online (e.g. via YouTube etc.). This can be effective for certain parts, can drum up publicity and can allow you to watch more auditions than you could in a single casting session. (I don’t like the process of seeking votes for submissions – but I’m also speaking from an actor’s perspective.*).
There’s obviously lots more to say on how to leverage social media for film. Please comment below with your suggestions, examples and input.
For further reading, a few posts on the topic are bookmarked here (including some I’ve written).
I was reading the Utne Reader recently and I came across an pretty ad for Fluevog with an artist’s drawing.
The accompanying text read:
“Do you have the world’s best Fluevog Ad stuck in your head? Get it out at Fluevogcreative.com”.
I went to the url and read that this contest was offering $1,000 (in Fluevog gear) and exposure to the winning ad artists.
So…. is an ad worth only $1,000 and will the exposure really benefit the artist?
My initial reaction is “probably not”, because I have concerns when it comes to artists and contests. And because my antennae prick up when I hear the word “exposure”.
See, “exposure” is a woefully overused term. It is a huge “incentive” (really need the quotation marks there) offered in the indie film world – especially directed at actors:
“Work for free (and coffee!) on our production. Great opportunity for exposure!”
Now, granted, the Fluevog ads are being placed in decent magazines – so this is actual exposure, for what it’s worth, as opposed to imagined (many films don’t see the light of day as their filmmakers don’t fully grasp the challenges of getting their film into a festival). And the winners also get bios on the Fluevog creative site (e.g. the ad I saw featured Heather Mulligan’s art and her bio is on the site).
But is there a true value for the artist in said exposure? This is not a rhetorical question. I would be interested in an unbiased follow up to this type of contest. It is entirely possible that someone else would notice the ad and hire the artist for a project. But is it likely? How many of the ads/artists will there really be a success story for? I’d sincerely like to learn what happens.
The prize amount irks me a bit, though. An ad results in $1,000 of product for the artists – which , by the way, in Fluevog dollars equals… about 2 pairs of shoes (perhaps less)? Fluevog could reasonably pay more reasonably. (Of course, I can never wrap my head around purchasing shoes that are $400+, so my understanding of the value factor is clearly limited. Oh wait, the value is only $1,000 no matter how much you love the shoes! OK, I’ll proceed then.)
In the Fluevog case, it also strikes me that the exposure might benefit one party to a degree greater than the other. The ad showcases Fleuvog. The artist’s concept is secondary – although I commend Fluevog for actual including in the creative, in addition to the artist’s name, their url (something I’ve rarely seen). (The ad I saw provided the link to Heather Mulligan’s Deviant Art page: www.auroracle.deviantart.com )
Of course, on the plus side, the artist may not get magazine ad level exposure were it not for the contest (and, in this case, I’m assuming that the exposure might have some value, which of course, is still up for discussion). And the artist could very well re-purpose something they already created (although I haven’t checked the rules on that) and just plug in a shoe or the name Fluevog or what not, and Boom!, ad created. So it may not, in fact, involve a huge effort on their part.
And, of course, there is the fact that here I am, & Pete is, talking about it. So the “tactic” is working, in some respect. (Although, again, perhaps more for Fluevog?)
But back to the bad side: Fluevog gets the ad(s) created for far less than they would pay an agency to create, and the art for far less than a fair price: I think this serves to devalue at both industries.
Now, I understand that nobody can be exploited in these cases without their consent. The artists have to agree and do the work – and the transaction seems to be clear. That said, the lure of “exposure” is a strong one – especially for artists – who sometimes encounter difficulties in terms of getting paid to do what they love.
Your thoughts? You might also consider weighing in Pete’s post on One Degree.
*At the risk of sounding like a hypocrite, I should note that I work on and enter contests. Obviously for those I don’t see the imbalance as much – although there’s always the possibility cognitive dissonance could be at play.
I have also written about the topic of artists, contests and crowdsourcing on the following posts:
These kinds of competitions are interesting animals… While exciting, I am of two minds about the concept, alternating between feeling that they are fun and can be useful, and thinking that there are somewhat exploitative – a great way for a company to get a polished product for way less than they would if they hired someone.
In my experience, it can sometimes be a creative jolt to have some sort of theme and deadline to work with (whether my video on Twitter was creative or jolting, remains to be decided, but it got me doing something actory that day).
Of course, quality submissions require effort – along with an idea that the odds often against you (depending on the number of submissions). It is a gamble. Whether it is worth it, in my opinion, depends on level of exposure and whether you can truly learn from it, have fun and/or make valuable for your portfolio even if you don’t “win”.
A great example of someone making a contest work for them was Jaemin (aka Chris) Yi who filmed three very cool commercials for a Doritos contest. My favorite is below:
His excellent post about what he learned from the process is on his blog.
On the artists survey I ran, I asked the (admittedly unclear) question:
“What are your thoughts on spec work/contests for artists? (e.g. a design contest where you create a poster for a film, but may/may not have your submission selected in the end) Feel free to rant or praise:”
I received a variety of excellent responses – here are just a few:
“Like the idea, especially if the selectors come from the public or readership, rather than a closed secret panel of jurors” – Mitchell Teplitsky, Filmmaker
“I like it so long as the people running the contest are honest and the winner gets some real exposure and the collectors of the data share it with the participants” – Scilla Andreen, Filmmaker & CEO of Indieflix.com
“Spec is always out of bounds. Don’t do it! It’s the bane of all writers, no matter what kind of work they do. Contests, on the other hand, open doors. I signed with an agent after receiving a national award for my first book. Never would have gotten his attention without it.” – Laine Cunningham, Writer
“They’re good for exposure. They’re good for creating portfolio pieces. They’re good for expressive fun works– for those who do not get to be as creative as they’d like on client work.” – Ori Bengal, Photographer, Photoshop artist, full-time couchsurfer, web designer, marketer
“Oy -don’t get me started. Artists are too often exploited when they are trying to make a name for themselves. … I did enter and win the 2006 Applied Arts Magazine Awards Annual and it did lead to some new contacts and one job. There needs to be a prestige factor. There are enough competitions and awards handed out for even the very least talented people out there. I am the best photographer my living room -right now. I think the competition for the 2010 Olympic logo and the mascot design was unethical. Imagine if I could get thousands of people to do work for me for free and only pay one of them. It was cleverly packaged as a “feel good” inclusive kind of friendly competition but the Olympic Committee received a lot of highly skilled and valuable labour for free. They wouldn’t try that with any other profession but the creative arts.” – Dan Jackson, Photographer
“I both rant and praise. Philosophically, I think it really degrades the industry regardless of if it’s for graphic design or photography or whatever, and that at the end of the day you can get better work if you hire someone directly – most of the spec work type sites attract a mid-range level entrant. On the other side, I’ve used sites like this in the past because I love what they offer. It’s a catch 22.” – Miranda Lievers, Photographer
“Opportunities are always great. But preparing for contests, design work, writing pitches all take time and it is disappointing not to be selected. I’ve had the best luck with entering photo contests. Just won an honorable mention in American Photo – Images of the Year.” – Kim Campbell, Photographer
“This is one of the worst things to ever come about, and it disgusts me. No one would think of doing this to a plumber, but artists are constantly expected to give it away for free. No artist should participate. It weakens the entire profession, and more often than not the “contest” portion is just a scam, or is less money than a freelancer would charge for the work anyway. There are a lot of good rants out there about this subject!” – Lauri Lynnxe Murphy, Visual Artist
“I think the internet has created many opportunities for artists to give away their product in the hopes of being recognized. So we have created a nation of “amateurs” in the best sense of the word (the root of amateur is amare, past participle of “to love” in French). Unfortunately, all those people are no longer buying art; instead, they’re creating their own, which is wreaking havoc in the artistic marketplace. I don’t know if it’s good or bad; I just know that it’s what is.” – Marc Acito, Writer
37.They have value, depending on what the outcome is. Using the example, if it’s something that’s going to give an artist a great deal of exposure, it’s a valid time investment (as long as the selection remains in your control if it doesn’t win). At the same time, a documentary or independent film that has a great moral or societal aim would also merit the investment. I just don’t like situations where the outcome doesn’t match the value of the work and time, and/or implies a monetary devaluation by treating professional artists as hobbyists. – Dana Detrick, Musician, Voice Artist and Audio Producer
“I don’t mind spec work/contests but I absolutely detest any contests that require entry fees. They are asking us to pay them for the opportunity to create work for them? Give me a break.” – Bob Johnson, Photographer
Want more articles about artists? I have a whole series here.
I have been lax about posting items of particular interest to artists. Mea culpa.
Here are a few enlightening articles I’ve come across:
David Spark‘s Mashable post, “12 Inspiring Stories of Successful Social Networkers“, has an amazing example of the value of twittering for your character:
“Having blown all their budget on production, “My Two Fans” had no money for advertising, so off a friend’s recommendation, Swatek decided to start Twittering as her character, Kate Maxwell (@KateMaxwell). To get some fodder for Twittering and to find her audience, Swatek began following businesses and people that could relate to her show, such as dating sites, single women, girl power groups, fan clubs, etc.”
Beth Kanter offers the amazingly comprehensive post “Arts Organizations and Artists 2.0: Social Media for Arts People” which also mentions the value of using a blog as a showcase:
“For individual artists, a blog can also help sell or promote their work. Here’s some artists personal blogs that support their gallery sites where they sell their work — A Planet Named Janet, Self VS Self, PaMdora’s Box and Jen Lemen.”
“…upload any documents you want to share. Views, downloads, likes, comments, and favorites stats are plainly displayed on the page so you can see how popular the document has been. This can be used for anything from posting up a teaser to your next book to providing a free downloadable short story as a fan bonus. The settings for the documents (like if they can be downloaded or not) are easily set and Scribd serves as a great way to get your writing out to other people.”
Any other cool stuff you’ve come across lately? Please share!
Back from holidays! Ahhhh, Bali was bliss.
I’ll be posting again soon. In the meantime, should you wish to read “Indie Film 2.0 – How Social Media is Empowering Independent Filmmakers” (My most recent post on One Degree) – well, I won’t fight you
Among other subjects, Carol Sill & Erica addressed the role of “characters” in telling a story via social media.* Gillian Shaw (who was also on the panel & was great) subsequently spoke to Carol & I about our thoughts on the subject.
Now I rarely follow “characters” – likely because there are few television shows and fictional characters that engage me enough to follow their “activities” online.** And with characters where it’s not clear the “person” isn’t a person, there is a certain deception involved.
It’s a double edged sword for an artist – put forth a character that makes the fictional aspect apparent and many won’t follow an “unknown” character. Not unless they have something really interesting to say. Which is why I do follow Emme Rogers (as do many others): she’s fun, flirty and I think the conversation that takes place around her and her exploits brings a great sense of play to Twitter.
And characters can be very useful – and exciting – both for the artist and for the storyteller.
Allowing the character to live in other platforms before the film is released – and whilst the film is being made – gives the character a larger/broader life – and helps with publicity.
Related stories (lets call them “pre-stories”, for this point) can engage the audience and allow them to have a larger window into/to the character. After all, any character has a life that began before the point at which the film begins. Consider what aspects of their life you can explore and what kind of tools you could use to tell the story (video on Youtube et al., photos on Flickr, brief but enticing spurts on Twitter etc.) What parts of their story can bring more life to the character and the film? Where were the characters 6 months before? What interactions did they have the day before? That morning? You can see how this can be especially useful for something like a mystery/suspense project!
And, as I said in the above article (and as I have heard Monique Trottier mention with regards to books), there is no reason the end of the film needs to be the end. I can tell you that there have been several films (Red Road, Sideways) where I was consumed with reading more about the film after seeing it. Or where I’ve seen a film numerous times. So desperate was I to stay “engaged”.
For the artist, this process, while time-consuming, is in another sense, almost effortless. After all, as a writer and actor, I always created a background for the characters etc. And, much as I’d love to pretend I’m special, this is pretty standard practice. So such items can be extremely creative and satisfying – as well as a boon when it comes to building an audience.
And now, with all the tools available through social media, there’s the opportunity to give the audience more, to keep them engaged. Your creativity is the limit when it comes to where your story begins – or ends.
*We managed to talk about several social media topics, but there were some key things we didn’t have the time to address, so I hope we do have the opportunity to do a part 2 with this group so we can take our discussion to the next level. Oh & Erica and Leah Nelson (who was helping out by being Linkgrrl09 and finding the sites we all talked about) decided to play this video while I spoke, to help er, demonstrate my expertise…
**However, get any or all the characters from The Office on Twitter and I will press “follow” until I develop carpal tunnel.
***I’ll be looking into the use of Alternate Reality Games for independent film projects in a future post.
Want more articles about artists? I have a whole series here.