March 29, 2012

Second Life Music Venues VS Artists: Who's doing WHAT?!?!?

To be or not to be? No wait, how about to promote my own business or let the artists do it for me?

Sounds silly right? Well don't be surprised when I tell you that I have personally come across music venues in Second Life that do absolutely zero promotions, zero events listings and pretty much zero across the board, relying solely on the artists to do it all. In nearly five and a half years of constant performing in Second Life, I've pretty much run the gauntlet at least a few times, of the different venue types and venue owner types. I'll simply categorize the latter into A and B. OWNER A does the work... OWNER B can give a rats ass about their own venue, its marketing, promotions, and just complete ignorance when it comes to the business side running of their venue.

Recently, Brandy (Kalli Birman in SL) who you know as my manager and business partner in SL, booked me a gig at a venue. Mainly because it's fitting, we'll call this venue Deuchebags! Now Deuchebags is more of a shopping spot but they wanted to try some live music to add to the DJ events they currently have.

Of course at the time of the booking, Brandy gave Deuchebags the notecard which indicates that, prior to the event, we ask that the venue do X, Y and Z, simple and not time consuming tasks for the betterment of the event and what any rational person would consider, such as listing in SL Events, posting in social networks, sending to their own SL group(s), and other simple and obvious marketing.

Three days before the scheduled event, the event listing is finally listed, but for the wrong time. Brandy politely asks for a correction. A day later, Deuchebags replied saying they were having difficulty. Ok that's possible, I guess, SL gets borked at in some way least 3 days a week. A day later, the correction is made with an entirely new event posted in Events, and the first, incorrect event, is still there. Hmmmmm. Red Flag number one.

Heading over to the venue, Brandy asked "where would you like Mankind to setup for the show... where's the stage?" She was met with "We were hoping you guys could provide one!" Hmmmmm. Red Flag number 2.

After repeatedly trying to contact them over and over and not getting any reply for about half a day, I realize that these people are seriously lacking in Communication Skills. I mean ok people have to work RL, I get it, I do too. However, if you're going to bother HAVING a "live music" venue, then it's not plug and play like simply turning on a stream to play a radio station or streaming a playlist from iTunes. Hmmmmmmm. Number 3.

So it dawns on me, Deuchebags has absolutely no clue what they're doing and no idea of how to run a venue. More than that, they are sadly lacking in business and yes, personal ethics... and they're not alone. I'm sorry to say there are others who, put bluntly without any powdered sugar, have no clue how to run a venue. The simple proof of this is in the venue turnover rate. How many venues have come and gone in the past 2 years alone? 

So this leads me to the point of this post.

In nearly 5.5 years of live performing in Second Life, and as a business owner in RL for many years, I like to think I have a pretty good grasp on what the role of the venue and the role of the artists should be. As a professional business owner in Real Life for a long time as well, I also believe that many things carry over from RL to SL.

Here's what I'd like to share. I offer this to any live music venue, new or existing, with the hopes that you will read between the above sarcasm, and take it seriously. Honestly, it's only meant to help. 

The Venue:

The live music venue is a business... plain and simple. A business like any other. A business needs to promote, market otherwise display what it is they are offering, their products and/or services. Like any other business, a good Business Plan and Marketing Plan are very helpful when starting out but many businesses have succeeded without. Regardless of what type of business you plan on opening, one thing that is always needed is... WORKING CAPITAL! The venue owners will hope to recoup all or at least part of their investment in the first year, less than likely in SL so be prepared to not earn anything. To increase your chances, you might consider only booking artists that draw a crowd. If after a year, a performer isn't bringing in more than 20 attendees, it's probably doubtful that will change at your particular event with this performer. Go for the better known draw as this will translate into greater numbers and greater tips for your venue, that's what most venues rely on. If you have something cool, a niche, some product or very cool logo that you can brand on wearables and other premiums, offer them for sale to help offset costs.

When a venue sets up live events, they need someone to handle the publicity and PR so they need... MARKETING! Aaah the Marketing. Sadly, many venues I have played personally do not do a THING with respect to marketing. They rely on the artists. I mentioned in a recent Facebook Post that live music venues should take cues form those that have been in SL for a long time and those that might be newer but have very strong visibility. Places like Key West, The Whisky a Go Go, The Source, The Boom Pony, Ground Zero, and other... these are venues with very professional minded owners who recognize that, among other things, they NEED to do their own marketing in concert with that of the artists.

Part of your marketing plan should be researching the best and most appropriate places for your venue to appear. A Rock Club probably won't have a lot of click through on an ad placed on a classical themed website. 

Remember earlier I mentioned a venue needs working capital? A good chunk of it really needs to pay for marketing and advertising. I own a web design firm as one of my RL businesses. One of the services offered is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) which helps websites get higher results on searches. I tell my clients, without proper SEO, even if you have the coolest website, it will be like a water fountain in the desert.... without a "map", no one will know it exists! You need to be FOUND. The venue NEEDS to advertise, just like any business.

There are many great sources to advertise but always check with the website owners about THEIR traffic before you spend money. Find out how many "unique monthly page views" their website receives. I can tell you, as the creator of Second Friends, we see roughly 20,000 page views per month and personally, I probably would advertise on a SL devoted site that has 10,000 or more, provided it wasn't too specifically directed IE a website about virtual pets. Talk to Brandy if you're interested in Second Friends ads. There are not many available at this time but a few good spots are open.

For Brandy and I, well we are marketers to begin with so when I perform, it goes without saying that we do our  marketing for each and every event. Between SL, Facebook, Second Friends, websites, etc., roughly about 400,000+ eyes will see our marketing material but we make sure to work WITH the venues, to make sure we  are marketing along the same design avenues, that we are using similar or the same marketing collateral, to ensure a consistent flow for the event planning and promotions.

Not everyone knows the ins and outs of marketing, granted. Most artists, in both RL and SL want to get on the stage, perform and be on their way. I firmly believe that when at all possible, an artist really should play a more active role in the marketing and promotions of their own events... it just makes sense?

In order to have live music at the venue, an artist needs to be booked so it makes sense for someone employed by the company to be the scout to seek out talent appropriate for the venue. The venue definitely needs a... BOOKING AGENT!

For now, let's assume this is a new live music venue that wants to open in Second Life. A live music venue offers Live Music performed by a live musician, track singer, whatever you like. The musician they hire will need a place to perform so a Live Music Venue needs... a STAGE! Silly? Not really. Look at Deuchbags. They asked ME to provide a stage for THEIR venue! Enough said.

The Artist:

Like a venue, there is the business side to being a Second Life performer, but many artists in the world lack some of this important knowledge and rely on the venues to spread the word about their event. So here's the obvious scenario: The Venue who doesn't know business/marketing booking the artists who don't know business/marketing. What do you think the outcome will be?

This is why it's so important that both sides take an active part in the business side of what they do. There are SO many talented artists in SL that aren't getting the attention they deserve simply due to lack of knowledge on basic strategic marketing.

The artists, as I see it, should in the VERY least, do the following (and these are things I try to do myself):

• Promotional Poster - Make one yourself, hire a graphic designer, just get one for each and every event. It should include the artist's name, her picture (SL, RL or both), web address if applicable, even have it give out a link or notecard when clicked.

• Event Listing outside of Second Life - This can include creating an event on Facebook and inviting your friends. You can also post on Second Friends home page where you can list your event for free and include audio, video, text, photos links, etc. in your post. Post on your other websites and so on.

• Group Notices - Send an early notice to your group during the day (if it's a night show). Keep in mind there are many people from many different time zones in SL who may not have received this early notice, but you're going to send notices a half hour before the event anyways. This way you're covered.

• Personal Fan Group - Every artist should have started a Fan Group at the start of their performing in SL. Use it. Stay in touch. They are your friends and your family. They deserve the first crack at special events, to arrive early at shows and thus receive and earlier notice than the other music groups and general SL population.

• Second Friends Groups - Not to beat a dead horse but you have this free tool at your disposal. Why not use it? Create a Group on Second Friends. Once you do, contact either myself or Brandy and we'll get you a small banner you can place on your stage when you perform. It will link attendees right to the SF Group page where you can post just about anything a website can handle... like photos, videos, music, and so on. To be clear, the reason I created SF in the first place was because Second Life doesn't allow much in the way of media to be included in group notices or on notecards. A group notice in SL can handle text, textures, links and a notecard which is also limited to the same media. Second Friends allows you to share much more in the way of media, plus it ties in with your other social profiles like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. IT's a big time saver too as you can "push" your events to your other social networks with a few clicks. 
I'm not trying to push Second Friends in the post, do what you want. I just honestly feel it is a great tool. That's why I created it to be SHARED with everyone!

• For Bigger Events - We like to start promotions at least a few days ahead of the event, sometimes even a week or a few weeks. It really depends on the event itself. Events that you really feel are bigger and more deserving should have promotions started earlier. Just keep the same marketing material on all posts. What I mean is, try to keep the design of all marketing consistent from place to place, website to website, etc.

Well there you have it. I have a deep respect for those venues like the ones I mentioned above, who have taken it upon themselves to not only promote their business, but also help the artists you have yet to learn how to do it themselves, or find a great manager who knows how to handle the marketing. I am very fortunate with Brandy who is a true professional. We have become best friends and work very well together on many projects. As long as a manager understands you and your direction as an artist, then you are already ahead of the curve.

As always I wish you the best and if Brandy or I can be of any help, please do not hesitate to get ahold of us. Check out Brandy's Blog with some very useful info on the topic as well.

In closing, let me just give one more shout out to Deuchebags with a very high spirited "GET A CLUE!" - U.S. All News