Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

Imogen Heap “Ellipse” Full Album Streaming Here

For those of you who read my article The New Music Business Model: Imogen Heap and responded by asking, “What about the music?!”

Well, here you go – full-streams of Imogen Heap’s forthcoming album Ellipse:

Influencer Marketing

You might be wondering why it’s been 3 weeks since my last post (The New Music Business Model: Imogen Heap). . .

Initially, this entry was going to be about the benefits and differences between using Facebook and Twitter to share articles.  I’ve been tracking traffic across multiple blogs, looking at referring sources, and trends in the ebb and flow of visitors to each blog or article.  As we know, social media platforms and search engines often continue to breathe life into stories long after they’ve been published.

What I initially set out to do was offer tips for maximizing the reach of your content online, specifically leveraging Facebook and Twitter.  But in the midst of all this research something happened and traffic to a blog I posted 3 weeks ago skyrocketed.

The graph depicting traffic to my blog originally included spikes as more and more people re-tweeted and shared the post.  There were additional spikes when Imogen Heap’s PR Twitter account, @HeapWire, Tweeted my story and then again when @ImogenHeap sent a Tweet reminding followers that PR stories could be found at HeapWire.  Then, Monday morning, what was previously charting as significant traffic had been trumped and now the graph looks like this:

Daily Traffic to The New Music Business Model blog post

Daily Traffic to The New Music Business Model blog

What happened? Bob Lefsetz, arguably the most influential (and often controversial) writer in the music business, and Scott Perry whose New Music Tipsheet is a must-read for anybody who’s trying to stay on top of music news – found, responded and linked to my blog. From there, Josh Groban re-tweeted Lefsetz’s link and several other established sites (including Hypebot) requested to re-publish the post.

I was instantly reminded of the important role influencers play in spreading content.  Influencer marketing and relationship building is a core component of almost every campaign I conceive.  That said, I was not actively “pushing” my own blog nor did I send it to Lefsetz or Perry. Yet as a result of their attention, I decided that a blog about influencer marketing is probably more meaningful at this point than a blog about maximizing your reach via Facebook and Twitter.  Let’s face it – there are numerous platforms available that effectively support the viral distribution of your content, but those are merely delivery channels.  The most beneficial thing you can do is leverage each network to reach the people who matter most — the influencers.

Who is an influencer? It’s important to define “influential” because it is often confused with “the person who can reach the largest audience.”  While it may be the case that the person with the most “friends” is also the most influential, what truly defines “influence” is the ability to incite action.

A person with 500,000 “friends,” followers, or email subscribers may be able to communicate a message to a wide audience.  But is that audience actually paying attention? Are they moved by the message to take action? Are they even reading the message? Conversely, a mom who has 10,000 dedicated blog readers, who are excited about her blog daily, forward her advice to their friends, and buy the products she recommends, is certainly influential. Influencers are trusted members of a community, who have perceived expertise.

Another thing to keep in mind is that influence varies among different target audiences.  In niche or exclusive communities even fewer members hold greater influence.  Within a broad community (i.e. pet owners) there will be one set of influencers, but as you drill down into specific sub-categories (i.e. dogs) and then further (i.e. German Shepherds) there will be a different set of influencers altogether. The more targeted you are when connecting with influencers, the more likely your message will be “heard.”

Similarly, each platform or network tends to have its influencers.  This is particularly visible on Digg and Twitter. To get a sense of somebody’s overall influence on a target audience, you need to look at all of the places that member is engaging with the audience (Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, Digg, etc.).  Often it’s easier to find the most influential people within one network and then dig further to find the most influential people within a target audience on that network.

When it comes to entertainment marketing, sometimes the most influential sources are not the official ones.  During a recent music campaign we found that 2 super-fans were able to drive more views of an artist’s video than the artist herself.  Similarly, the more commercial or corporate the campaign, the more likely the most influential and trusted sources will not be the official representatives of each group.  People are looking for trusted, third-party validation which means we need to find the trusted “validators” — they have been proven to drive awareness, adoption, and sales.

Who influences the influencers? It’s important to remember that no matter how influential somebody is, they too have their own trusted network that they turn to for information and recommendations.  The influencer’s influencer may not be all that influential in the larger community, but by having the ear of the recognized influencer, this additional source is actually a key enabler in the chain of influence.  For example, if you really want to reach a celebrity (a primary influencer), it helps exponentially to have a good relationship with their personal assistant or management team.

There are numerous occasions when it is difficult to gain access to the primary influencer.  So don’t just know who the influencers are — know who their influencers are! Twitter can help give you some insight into this – find the influencers and then look at whom they’re following.  On Facebook you can look at whom the influencer is engaging with most frequently (via wall posts and comments) as well as their “Top Friends” (if they’re using that app).  At Digg there are a group of very influential members — if enough of them Digg your article, you will end up on the front page. Look at who these influencers are Digging and get to know them as well – chances are they’re the ones feeding information to the primary influencers on Digg.

Where can you find influencers? It depends on your target audience.  Some communities are more active online than others, some audiences prefer one social network to another, and some influencers have private social network profiles but publicly accessible blogs.  It’s not only important to understand where your influencers can be found, but also the best way to reach and engage them.

A real world example: the yoga community. According to a study published by Yoga Journal magazine, “Yoga in America,” Americans spent $5.7 billion in 2008 on yoga classes and products, including equipment, clothing, vacations and media such as DVDs, videos, books and magazines. 44% of yoga practitioners in the US have a household income of at least $75,000.  24% earn more than $100,000.  An estimated 15.8 million people now practice yoga in the US. This is undeniably a group of people many brands and advertisers would like to reach.

The thing about the yoga community is – the most influential members are not online all that often (speaking relatively of course).  One of my dear friends is a very well known yoga teacher — the auto-reply on her email currently states she’s away until July 18th.  Nearly a month later even the auto-reply is out of date (and by the way, she is no longer “away”). Several of her students (and my friends) are members of Facebook, but compared to other audiences who log on daily or multiple times daily, the yoga community seem to participate less frequently.

This is not to say you can’t reach the yoga community online.  I’m merely pointing out that many of the most influential people in this group are traveling the world, leading workshops, and participating in offline gatherings.  So, if you really want to connect with the influencers in the yoga community, grab your mat and hit a class or attend a yoga conference or workshop.

Generally speaking, influencers in most target audiences can be found across multiple online platforms including: Facebook, Twitter, Digg, YouTube, WordPress, etc.  But keep in mind that it may also be beneficial to reach influencers offline, and authentically connect with them in the physical world.

How do you identify influencers? Companies such as BuzzLogic and Nielsen BuzzMetrics offer services that tell you not only who is talking about your brand or a specific topic, but who the most influential communicators are. There are also several sites that attempt to measure influence on Twitter based on various criteria (# of followers, influence of followers, # of RTs,  etc).

All of these services are helpful and can make the process of identifying influencers more efficient. At the same time, the most essential element of successfully tapping into influencers is building authentic relationships with them. While a service may point you in the right direction, at the end of the day you still need to do considerable work to really understand individual influencers and how they engage their followers.

Personally, I still identify influencers manually. I look at who’s writing about various subjects (social media search tools like Who’s Talkin? make this more efficient), look at who their audience is, and monitor audience engagement with each person’s communication. People ask, “Well, doesn’t that take a lot of time?” Yes, it does.  But through this process I also learn a great deal about each member of the community – their preferred methods of communication, the types of content they’re most interested in, how they communicate with their followers, how frequently they engage with the community, and probably most important – what they don’t like.

Working with influencers: This is where the real effort kicks in. Working with influencers requires that you have solid, relevant, and interesting content and exceptional relationship-building skills.

As previously noted, often the most influential people are those who are very difficult to reach directly – celebrities, athletes, highly respected writers and industry leaders like Bob Lefsetz and Scott Perry. Furthermore, the top tier influencers typically do not want to be told what they should be paying attention to.  They’re influential because they know what to pay attention to.  Again, this is why it’s important to maintain good relationships with the people the influencers are watching and ultimately, to become one of those people yourself.

Do not assume that since you’re one of the biggest brands or that because you created a once-popular product, people are going to care and be excited to hear from you. The most influential people are bombarded with similar requests and although you may think otherwise, you’re nothing special. They also tend to pride themselves on their credibility and their inability to be “bought” (although most will be happy to offer you advertising on their site).

Building these relationships takes time and requires patience. I once worked for somebody who was frustrated that influencers weren’t signing on to our promotion as rapidly as he would have liked.  Not understanding what it takes to develop these relationships, he said, “Well, just tell them you work for the guys who created MySpace.”  To which I responded, “These people hate MySpace.”  Next, he suggested we modify our communication and tell people we worked for News Corp.  Ummm… see the previous paragraph… and have an understanding of how your brand (and its parent company) is perceived.  Authentic relationships are built between individuals.   It’s okay to tout your brand to the right people. It’s even better to reach out with humility and gratitude and recognize you need these relationships more than they need you.

After many years of working with influencers, I haven’t found a fail-safe formula. However, there are some things you can do to increase your chances of success:

  • Understand the audience you’re trying to reach. Make sure you “know” them.  If you’re not familiar with a particular target audience, find somebody who is a member of that community or shares their interests and let that person handle communications.
  • Provide relevant content – something people will want to re-publish or respond to.
  • Make sure the content you offer is of value to the people you’re trying to reach (again – relevancy, quality, and knowing your audience)
  • Be aware of the boundaries of the relationships you create and what you do and don’t have permission to do.  Lefsetz’s response to my blog includes a link to a helpful article about Permission Marketing written by Seth Godin.
  • Maintain good relationships with everybody you encounter – you never know who has the ear of the most influential people in their community.  Don’t underestimate the power and influence of bartenders, personal trainers, the hotel concierge. . .
  • Be patient and respectful. Building relationships takes time and if somebody isn’t interested in what you’re offering, thank them for their consideration and remember you may have something down the line that they will be interested in
  • Instead of telling people what you want, invite conversation.  Let them know what you have to offer and remain open to suggestions.  Influencers likely know their audience better than you and chances are they’ll offer better ideas and even help you optimize your content.

Yes, it’s a lot of work. But it is possible to build sustaining relationships with people who ultimately help support the longevity of your brand. I believe it’s worth it.

The New Music Business Model: Imogen Heap

[UPDATE September 2, 2009: Imogen Heap’s album Ellipse debuts at #5 on US Billboard top 200 and #4 on Canadian top 200! Also, related article posted here:]

It’s been a while since someone in the music business impressed me.  Finally, somebody has impressed me so much that it inspired me to launch my long-overdue company website and marketing blog.  This is the story of how one woman and 700,000 (and climbing) followers on Twitter are creating the new music business model.

During the past ten years we’ve seen dramatic shifts in the music business. Since the launch of Napster and other peer to peer sharing sites there’s a growing sense among consumers that music – at least the songs – should be free.  We’ve seen record label executives struggle with the changing environment, we’ve seen some independent artists thrive, and we’ve seen some major-label artists go independent and take advantage of this turn.  Is it that we must give the songs away for free? Or is there some other asset of perceived greater value that we can offer fans, and still successfully sell music?

Enter: Imogen Heap.  Some people may recognize Imogen as the beautiful vocalist of Frou Frou.  Others may be familiar with her song “Hide & Seek” or the song she wrote for The Chronicles of Narnia, Can’t Take it In.” But even if you’ve never heard of her, it’s time to pay attention — Imogen Heap is changing the way business is done.  Or perhaps she’s just bringing music back to its roots — the relationship between musician and fan — and exploiting all the technical advantages available.  In a time when some music industry veterans seem to be afraid of the way technology is changing their business, Imogen Heap is using these technological advances to her advantage.

Chapter 1: Along Came Twitter: This is not to say Heap began her online relationship with her fans on Twitter.  Prior to the emergence of Twitter, Heap maintained a healthy MySpace profile with more than 14 million profile views and 350,000 fans.  She often posted blogs and bulletins and called for fan participation and feedback.

However, Twitter allowed Heap to efficiently update her fans about the making of her new record, Ellipse (release: August 25, 2009).  When I first began following Heap on Twitter she had just over 20,000 followers.  It was the early days of Twitter and while most people were posting their daily whereabouts or the progress they made doing their chores, Heap was chronicling the making of her album, a process that took 2 years. During this time she also purchased the home she grew up in and built a recording studio.  Heap documented all of this on her Twitter profile, making fans part of the process along the way.

Heap not only shared clips of music in progress, images of her recording studio, and the day’s triumphs, she also shared her frustrations, her insecurities, and often sought advice from fans.  In response to the many @replies Heap often received, she thanked her fans repeatedly. She also made it a habit to circle back with fans to let them know what decisions she ended up making upon hearing their input and would often show them the results with pictures, audio, or video.

Chapter 2: vLogging: To complement her dialog with fans on Twitter – and to tell a story with more than 140 characters – Heap maintained a regular video blog on YouTube.  In total, she posted 40 episodes, during the past 2 years, each running between 3 and 12 minutes long. Although, they’re publicly available, Heap’s vLogs make viewers feel like they’ve been invited into her home (indeed, most vLogs are shot in Heap’s home) for an intimate conversation. The vLogs capture Heap’s personality, her fun and celebratory nature, and allow fans to really get to know Heap even though they may never have met her in person.

The vLogs are not solely focused on the making of Ellipse — they include Heap’s adventures in learning how to drive (and passing her driving test);  remodeling her childhood home and turning her former playroom into her studio; and her New Year’s celebration. Each time she posted a vLog, Heap notified fans via Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace.

In March 2009, Heap posted a vLog calling for fans to help create her new press bio. The challenge – all submissions had to be made via Twitter, in the standard sub-140 characters. The final product is quite impressive and can be downloaded here.  Heap makes sure to give credit to the 81 Tweeters who helped co-write (or co-tweet) her new bio.

The result of Heap’s diligent vLogs and authentic fan engagement is a YouTube channel with more than 519,000 views and individual videos with as many as 122,000 views. Most important, each video is accompanied by hundreds of comments from fans expressing their excitement about Heap and the upcoming release of Ellipse, as well as their gratitude.

As fans became more and more engaged in the making of Heap’s album and the virtually, real friendship they shared with her, Heap allowed them to participate even further in the making of Ellipse.

Chapter 3: Flickr: In May 2009, Heap asked fans to submit samples of their work in order to be considered to collaborate with Heap on the album artwork and packaging.  3 fans were chosen to help create the artwork and all fans were asked to submit photographs that could potentially be included in the album packaging.   Heap created a Flickr group and asked fans to tag and submit all entries there.

Specifically, Heap was looking for images that capture the feeling or meaning of specific lyrics from the songs on her new album.  She posted the lyrics for reference, along with detailed instructions on the Flickr page. After sorting through more than 1,000 entries, Heap chose 11 fan-submitted photographs to be included in the final album artwork. Winners receive a cash prize, plus credit on the album.

Chapter 4: Building it Together: What Heap accomplished, all the while making a record, is truly brilliant.  She now has more than 735,000 followers on Twitter, each of whom feels invested in the making of Ellipse and is eagerly awaiting its release.  They’ve been there every step of the way, offered their opinions and insights when asked for advice about songs, helped create Heap’s bio and album art, and were the friends who were always willing to lend an ear… and a hand.

Chapter 5: Taking it Back (With A Little Help From My Friends): The story doesn’t end with the completion of the album.  A new load of work begins when the record is done – promo tours, interviews and radio shows. As part of the promotion machine, labels often send out advance copies of albums to music critics.  In early July one such promo album made its way to eBay. How did Heap find out about this? Twitter, of course.

A fan sent Heap a Tweet and notified her about the eBay auction for her as of yet unreleased album. Heap was outraged, as she puts it, not because she doesn’t want the music to get out there (she wants her fans to have the music), but because some opportunistic person who had nothing to do with the album stood to make a lot of money from its pre-release sale on eBay.  In fact, the man who posted the auction could have made $10,000,000, if only…

After Heap verified that her unreleased album was indeed posted for auction on eBay, she presented her Twitter followers with a little challenge — to make Ellipse “the most bidded-on item ever on eBay.” In typical form, fans responded en masse, bidding Ellipse up to $10,000,000.  Later Heap said, “it was going to be the most expensive album ever bought.”  Soon enough, eBay got wind of this and pulled the auction down.

During a time when many music fans are clamoring for free music, Heap’s fans actually helped ensure her music wasn’t prematurely leaked. As usual, Heap thanked her followers with a Tweet: “Well that was fun! Will get it removed and make sure none of you get bumped off eBay for helping me out there. Love to you! Heap sleep now.”

Chapter 6: Heap TweetUps: Although Heap enlisted her fans to help stop an unauthorized, early release of Ellipse, she continues to do what she can to make sure her fans remain part of the process and hear the music first. During a recent trip to the US, Heap launched “TweetUps” in New York and Los Angeles.

As she said during the Los Angeles TweetUp in early July, for Heap, the final part of the process is when the fans get to hear her music for the first time. Usually, the artist isn’t present in the homes, cars, and offices of fans when they’re listening to the album. Heap wanted to change this and to experience Ellipse through the ears of her Twitter followers.  Heap created the TweetUps so that she could preview her album for the fans who helped make it and who provided support and enthusiasm along the way.

Fans line up for Heap TweetUp, Los Angeles

Fans line up for Heap TweetUp, Los Angeles

The Heap TweetUps took place in small venues in New York and Los Angeles. The time and location of each TweetUp was announced one day prior to each event, on Twitter.  At The Hotel Cafe, in Los Angeles, Heap greeted fans who waited in a line that rounded 2 corners and stretched beyond a city block.  Once inside, fans were treated to an open bar (it was a 21+ event) and then invited to hear Ellipse for the first time.

Heap introduces each song

Heap introduces each song

Heap introduced and discussed the inspiration for each song’s genesis before pushing “play” on iTunes. Then, she stepped out of the light as fans listened for the first time. While music fans can often read or listen to an interview about the making of an album or the inspiration behind their favorite song, it’s rare that they get to sit with their favorite artist, listen to her introduce the music, and be in the room with her while the songs are playing. . .  all before the album is publicly released.  Beyond just playing the songs for the first time, Heap shared what, for her, and her fans was another pivotal experience, bringing the making-of Ellipse full-circle.

Imogen Heap signing autographs for fans after the TweetUp

Imogen Heap signing autographs for fans after the TweetUp

After previewing a handful of songs from the album, Heap offered to meet and sign photos for everybody who attended the TweetUp.  When the venue announced they needed to clear the room so they could prepare for that evening’s shows (the TweetUp took place in the afternoon), the long line of fans awaiting autographs didn’t seem concerned. Through the process of making an album with Heap, they learned she wouldn’t let them down. True to form and putting her fans first, Heap moved the meet & greet to the alley outside the venue. After a busy week of radio interviews and countless meetings, Heap took her time, speaking with and thanking every fan who was there.

Chapter 7: Cafe Heap: Now that the album is finished, the making-of vLog series has obviously come to an end. However, there’s still more to do between now, the album’s official release (August 25, 2009) and Heap’s upcoming tour (TBD beginning November) which means there’s still more for Heap to share with her fans. What else could she possibly do?

Last week Heap announced Heap Cafe – a live video chat that will take place (likely in her living room) weekly.  During the making of Ellipse Heap held a few live chats on uStream, but now she’s formalizing that into a weekly meeting. During her most recent video chat on uStream, Heap played piano and asked fans to chime in and tell her what to play.  “Play it faster,” “play it in the key of A,” “play anything!” the fans furiously typed in their suggestions. It was a fun experiment and another opportunity for fans to literally shape Heap’s music in real-time. All the activity, coupled with uStream’s integrated Twitter application, made #heapstream a trending topic on Twitter.

Heap Cafe will debut this week on a new platform, Vokle. They’re set to take place every Sunday, but there’s been mention that the first chat will take place Thursday, July 23rd. The best way to make sure you don’t miss Heap Cafe? Follow @imogenheap on Twitter.

Chapter 8: The Beginning: With over a month until its official release, Ellipse is currently #39 on the iTunes Top Albums chart. Heap seems to be gaining 1,000+ followers per day on Twitter. Fan enthusiasm continues to climb, with people Tweeting: “I would pay any price for Ellipse,” “finally had to cave & get twitter so i could get @imogenheap ‘s beautiful video,” “Thank you so much for allowing us to download Canvas. It’s such a lovely video. I would have paid many times over to get this.”

People are Tweeting about paying for music?! Imogen Heap has started something…