Pollstar Live! 300 Pink Flamingos!
Grassroots Marketing

How many other panels concluded with a rapper/poet showing off the rhymes that earned him a viral hit on YouTube that has been viewed more than 23.6 million times? That’s right. Watsky demonstrated that this pale kid really can rap fast.

Earlier in the panel Watsky discussed how the popularity of the 88-second video and using YouTube to reach out to fans taught him about the difference between substance and virality – and the need for substance if you’re going to have longevity as an artist.

He explained that you don’t make a career touring as “pale kid” and how he’s spent the past two years since posting the fast-rapping video gaining more fans by putting out quality material. When it comes to marketing, Watsky says his strategy is to not make people feel marketed to directly.

See Also: Extended Pollstar Live! Coverage as well as Pollstar Live! Facebook and Twitter

Grassroots marketing existed, of course, before social media. But one reason it is especially important in this decade is that our attention spans have changed.

“I recently read a statistic that people’s attention span today is five seconds long,” Michelle Szeto of Paquin Entertainment Group said. “What’s most alarming is comparatively, 10 years ago, people’s attention spans were 12 minutes. You are battling a million things all the time.”

Szeto added that in her experience, the most successful campaigns are ones in which you’re constantly bombarding fans with information about shows from an announcement in the paper to a flyer in the coffee shop to an ad on Facebook. Of course, you have to be flexible and you can’t have the same recipe for everything you do because it depends on your audience.

Ayappa Biddanda of Vanguard Records pointed out, “A lot of us don’t have the budget for over-saturating. We need to think about tailoring our campaigns – what fits your audience, what fits the artist in the best way.”

Now, about those flyers in the coffee shop. Flyers turned out to be a huge deal in this panel. Brunner talked about doing a survey with fans and being stunned to find out that the best way they learn about upcoming events was through flyers.

“They are very specific about their flyers,” Live Nation s Jim Bozzi said, noting that fans want glossy flyers and “they’re very specific about size. It has to be exciting.”

Rather than doing traditional flyers, Szeto said Paquin Entertainment Group will give out bookmarks, something on thicker card. For a family show like “Dora The Explorer” or “The Backyardigans” Paquin might hand out a coloring sheet where parents will put it on the fridge because “little Johnny colored it.” Any opportunity to be more visible, to have that piece of material stay in the home longer is a good thing because it will remind potential patrons they need to buy a ticket to the show.

Fans will really pay attention to the flyers if they come with free stuff, which Brunner refers to as “value added,” such as a code for a MP3 download or the opportunity to join an artist’s fan club for free for a year.

Sometimes the little things really matter – like thinking about what makes sense for the little ones.

“We all put posters in the venues and they’re always our height,” Bozzi said. “So I took the posters for The Wiggles … and put them at eye level for 5-year-olds. They rip it off, put it on their bedroom walls. I don’t care, that’s what we want.”

Another little thing that can make a big difference is a tweet from an artist. Bozzi pointed out that when artists tweet and talk directly to fans, these 140-character (or less) messages can have more of an impact than asking an artist to do an interview for a newspaper.

And while you’d love artists to connect to fans through Twitter, it’s sometimes best not to ask them directly.

After finding out that Phil Phillips loves Mrs. Fields cookies, the venue made sure there were some cookies in his dressing room. The singer was so pleased he took a picture and posted it online for his fans to see.
“That’s how you do it. You don’t want to give them the cookie and say, ‘Will you tweet this?’” Bozzi said.

From an artist’s perspective, Watsky talked about the importance of posing for pictures with the audience and posting the photos online to get fans in other markets excited about the upcoming gigs. He noted that instead of telling fans what a great time they’d have, the picture was showing them. And when fans see themselves in the photos on Facebook, it makes them feel like they’re part of the experience.

One artist Biddanda works with who is engaging his fanbase online is Trevor Hall  A section of Hall’s Facebook page is devoted to his fans, featuring paintings and other artwork “the Villagers” have created, inspired by the musician and his lyrics. Other fans have submitted photos of tattoos they’ve gotten based on Hall’s music.

“This level of engagement and passion is incredible and we’re able to spotlight it and say thank you,” Biddanda said. “Everything we’ve been talking about … What you’re trying to do is lead them to the show. It’s not about market share.

Its about mind share. If you have fans talking abut the show … telling friends, then market share is going to follow. It’s about serving rather than selling the audience. Rather than buying them.”

Brunner summed things up by saying, “In this world where five seconds is all we’ve got, what crazy person isn’t going to take advantage of the marvelous opportunities out there?”