Navigating the Social Media World: Advice from Bandsintown Consultant Randy Nichols
Randy Nichols is owner and founder of Force Media Management, an artist management agency and media consultant. Randy is an early investor and consultant for Bandsintown, the leading Facebook application for live music and artists. For fans, Bandsintown provides a personalized way for music fans to track their favorite artists so they never miss a live concert and to discover new touring artists, based on their musical preferences and location. For artists, Bandsintown provides a best-in-class platform that allows artists to promote their live concerts and to sell tickets.
Randy also manages successful acts The Starting Line, Underoath, and Fake Problems, among others on his impressive roster. We spoke with Randy a bit on on the topic of social media and more importantly, how important he thought it was to emerging acts. We also got some tips from him on what sites are best to use, some good practices to follow for generating new fans, and ways to manage your ever-expanding presence online.
Q: Tell us a little about what you do for Bandsintown
A: I was approached by Bandsintown about 2 ½ years ago to use their product for my bands, and I started giving them a lot of feedback about the product and was a very indirect user that wasn’t a very happy user at first and was complaining a lot about my perceived shortcomings of the company, and that slowly turned into them calling me as they were making product decisions and getting my opinion on what they were doing, and if I liked what they were doing as a user. That eventually shifted to me being asked if I was interested in being an investor in the company and now I’m a minority owner of the company as well.
Q:Social media has now been integrated into our everyday lives and most bands use it on some level. How important would you say using social media is on a daily or weekly basis is for emerging acts?
A:I think depending on your scenario I’d say using it daily at least, but by saying daily that doesn’t necessarily mean using every form of social media everyday. It may be slightly more important news that you’d post on Facebook weekly, and Twitter may be daily for you because it tends to be more personal about that individual personality. So, its very much about finding out what your fit is but you should be interacting as often as you have something compelling that you want to share with people.
Q: Some people would say that you aren’t going to land a record deal or get an agent just by using social media, so it’s not something they focus on. What would you say to that?
A: I would tell them that you’re never going to have a career. It’s not about one piece ever, it’s about all the pieces fitting together. You can absolutely have a successful career without using social media but you’re probably going to have that attitude about everything else in your career. I’ve talked to lots of bands that say they don’t want to do this or they don’t want to do that, but you have to interact in varying ways. I’ve talked to bands that go to shopping malls before shows and talk to people to try and get them out to their shows. So it’s not about using the modern social tools, it’s about needing to be social people.
Q:What are the top 3 social media sites you would say are most beneficial for bands?
A: There really isn’t an absolute answer because it depends on the artist. The two most obvious are going to be Facebook and Twitter because they have the most reach, but depending on what you do, Pinterest could be more important than Facebook or Instagram could be more important than Twitter. Then immediately right under those would be something like what I consult for, Bandsintown, if you’re a touring band--and that’s only if you are a touring band. Those other tools you could use and should use whether you’re touring or not. But Bandsintown comes in when you’re actually on the road. That’s an extremely important tool to use. But you really need to figure out what your band is about. If you’re about visual imagery, you should be using Instagram or Pinterest. If you’re more female leaning, Pinterest can be much more useful than Instagram.
Q: Do you think paying for online press kits such as ReverbNation and SonicBids is a useful tool?
A: As a band, you should look to where your favorite artists are and what services they are using and try to emulate that because you’re trying to reach the same fan base. If your favorite big bands are on ReverbNation then maybe you should use it. But as a manager, I take bands way more seriously that are using the same artist tools that all the other artists are using. You amaturize yourself when you use amateur tools.
Q: With the bands you manage, have you had success selling albums and merchandise through apps on Facebook or various other sites where you have items for sale, or do you see fans usually going directly to online merch stores?
A: It’s interesting because I have apps online for selling merch, but they link directly back to our merch stores, so I don’t actually know where the sales are physically coming from. But you do have new tools like Chirpify where you can just tweet to buy a track. There are interesting models out there that people are using now though.
Q: There are new social media sites, apps and platforms popping up everyday. It’s hard to keep up, especially if you don’t have marketing help from a manager or agency. Could you give us some tips on how to best manage all of one’s various sites?
A: I think the most important thing is finding the platforms that feel like they make the most sense for your band. There is so much out there but you don’t have to use everything. Figure out what is going to get you the most reach that your fans are going to care the most about and focus on those areas because you can’t always cover everything. And on top of that, look at apps like Bandsintown, where you can plug your data in to update on multiple platforms, or BandPage which is similar, where you can syndicate out your music to many different sites. So keep those things in mind when you’re picking a product to use. Find one that is going to get you in more than one place so you’re spending time to reach people that you aren’t even thinking about. Like BandPage, we mostly think about it being on Facebook, but they are on different platforms so when you update it you are updating it elsewhere.
Q: What would you say are some good practices or methods of gaining new fans online and really becoming a viral band? Do you think things like Facebook advertising for bands makes sense?
A:I think the most important thing is unique interaction, and one thing that I think is going to be great (it’s in Beta right now) is the new Facebook Social Graphs. You’re going to be able to search on Facebook for people who like certain bands and brands and it will literally show you a list of those people. It allows you to search very detailed context. Things like that are going to be very useful for developing artists because you’re going to be able to search people who like certain bands, and these are all people who you have a connection with. Tools like that are going to be spectacular to get out there and reach new people.
I feel like Facebook ads make sense in the right scenario , such as playing a show with a bigger band or getting some kind of interesting feature that people are going to care about. If people see your band name and they don’t know who you are, they aren’t going to care. You need something to tie into it that are going to make people actually care.
Q: Lastly, do you have any advice or tips you’d like to share with us?
A: Be honest and upfront. You’ve gotta be creative in selling your band and there is always going to be a little bit of smoke and mirrors to promote yourself but if you lie, remember we all know each other. If you tell me you have certain people in the industry that are interested in you, be sure that person is going to stand by what you say. If you lie, it can hurt you more than it can help you. Just be careful with what you say and how you say it.
Also, be careful with companies that prey on young bands. There are these fake labels and fake management companies that will reach out and want to represent you in exchange for a fee. You pay them $5000 and they put your record on iTunes. You could pay $50 through Tunecore and do the same thing. These companies don’t even do anything they claim--they all have varying scams. If you’ve never heard of the company and they are sending you emails saying they want to sign you, be extremely careful and ask a lot of questions and ask a lot of people about them, don’t just assume they are legitimate.