Your Song Has A Hook…And Your Website Needs One, Too
With the ever changing music industry, it’s becoming more important to build relationships with your audience. Music is so much more than just entertainment now, it’s all about creating an experience around it, and having a somewhat personal connection with your listeners. Basically, you have to create a tribe of loyal fans and followers around you. This isn’t always an easy task – some artists find it much easier than others, and this will vary depending on your genre, your own personality, and your audience’s listening and browsing habits. So many artists are vying for the attention of potential fans, so you need to stand out and offer something memorable and engaging, otherwise you run the risk of being listened to once and forgotten.
Your website should be your not-so-secret weapon
In my opinion, your website can (and should) be your most powerful weapon. Yes, social media is great for meeting new people and keeping in touch with the fans you’ve already captivated with your (hopefully) awesome music. However, you should be trying to direct these fans to your website whenever possible as more often than not, it’s where they’ll make a decision on whether they’re going to buy your latest release, or spend their hard earned paycheck on your new line of merch.
However, that’s a lot easier said than done. You can’t (and shouldn’t) be just sending out Tweets or Facebook posts all day everyday begging people to visit your website. Absolutely not. You need to offer them something new – something unique and interesting – that gives them a reason to visit, engage, and repeat the process.
In a strange twist of fate, as I was thinking about writing a post about this very subject, I stumbled across Toronto-based musical comedy duo, Debs & Errol. These guys have one of the best content strategies that I think I’ve ever come across in the unsigned and independent scene, so I contacted them to arrange an interview.
Ross: You create a daily comic strip for your website. What was the inspiration behind this particular idea?
Errol: Debs & Errol started off as an accident, actually. A friend asked us to perform separately for a geek theatre company, and because Debs has no geek songs, and I have no charisma, we decided to team up just for that one theatre run.
People liked us though, and kept asking us for a CD. After that, we decided to put one together and I foolishly thought it wouldn’t take that long for us to do. We set up a website but we wanted people to keep coming back to it so that when the CD was released, they would already be there.
The best way I could think of them coming back was to do a daily webcomic about our life as a band.
Debs: I thought he was crazy – pretty much still do!
Ross: Do you find that the comics encourage more engagement from your fans?
Errol: Totally! People are more aware of what is happening in our life and thus talk to us about it. Or, more accurately, when we bring things up, they’ll usually say “Yes, I read that in the comic.” Our comics post automatically to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr and we get engagement through likes, comments and shares across all of those platforms.
Debs: Those are the conventional forms of engagement, but there are other ways to get involved too! Every one hundred comics, we ask our readers to draw a D&E comic – and we’re always floored by the submissions. We post those on the site as well to showcase their awesome, because our readers are seriously awesome!
Also, if you’re not careful, you might even make it into one! The comic started with just Errol and I as characters, but we’ve branched out over time and now have a cast of about 20, including family members, friends, roommates and other geeky musicians. Readers get genuinely excited when we put them into the comic and we’ve had quite a few requests.
Ross: I can imagine it must be difficult to keep up sometimes, especially when you’re balancing so many different things! Despite it being hard work, do you feel the benefit of it? Do you feel like you’re closer to your audience?
Errol: Personally, I think D&E has the best audience ever. *laugh* They are supportive, they are encouraging, and they are very nice! I do enjoy meeting them and have heard some stories of people who have learned of us through ways that have surprised me. So yes, I do believe we feel the benefit of it and I do think we’re closer to them! I do know there was one person who didn’t even realize we did music and only read the comic. *laugh*
Debs: The comic definitely goes a long way in terms of helping us be recognizable and accessible and I think both of those help us get closer to our audience. It’s really easy to get a sense of who we are just from reading one comic. Errol is loud. Debs worries too much. Errol annoys Debs. Of course, the comic versions of us are slightly exaggerated, but you get the idea. Someone reading the comic will understand who we are and how we relate to each other before they even meet us. They’ll know what our band-life is like because so much of that is public knowledge. Then when they do meet us and see us perform, the familiarity is already there. It’s actually really cool!
Ross: What do you think is the importance of keeping people coming back to your site?
Errol: If your audience is already checking your website regularly, you don’t have to work as hard to get the information out to them when it’s time to run a crowdfunding campaign, release an album or promote a show. You’re not fighting for their attention because you already have it.
Debs: Having consistent content that generates engagement also allows you to build meaningful relationships with your audience. That’s something we love doing and of itself (Errol is an extreme extrovert)! It also makes a lot of sense from a business standpoint; the stronger your connection is with someone, the more likely it is that they’ll support what you do.
Ross: Having an active community is so important, on so many levels – and it’s especially important when it comes to something like crowdfunding, like you said. You can’t crowdfund successfully if you don’t have a crowd, or a tribe in the first place!
It sounds like you are definitely building up a loyal following. How else do you use the comic to promote and market your music and shows?
Errol: The one thing the comic allows us are daily readers. Some people binge, but others have made it part of their morning routine. This allows us to talk about upcoming events, shows, or cons we may be doing! Then when we tweet or post that comic on Facebook, it will lead them back to our website where they can find more details. If we write a new song and post it on YouTube, that will also find its way into the comic.
Debs: We’re also huge fans of cross-promotion and the comic is so perfect for that because of how sharable it is. If we do a storyline about our experiences at a convention or draw in or mention or include another geek musician, we’ll tag them when we post the comic. Often, they will share it too, and that’s great for community building.
One of my favourite examples of this happened last summer when Errol wrote the theme song for a flash game called King’s Ascent. I really wanted to do a crossover. The designers sent me all the sprites, and I did a story arc with where I was in the game being yelled at by the main character because I was such a bad player. Then I rebelled and flew off on a dragon. Several of our readers started playing too so it created a lot of conversation and that was really fun.
Ross: What advice would you give to fellow musicians who are struggling to create regular, interesting content for their audience? Are there any suggestions or tips that you can offer?
Errol: A daily web comic is, admittedly, not something everyone can do. Heck, I don’t think it’s something I can do but I keep doing it. However, we do more than the comic. We post things that we think our audience would find interesting. Since we’re a geek band, there is a plethora to share and it already exists. Regular content on YouTube is important, I did not know it was the second largest search engine next to Google. There are a number of things I want to do if I had more time, like games, puzzles, quests. We also like introducing our audience to new music that fits our style and genre, and we run interviews with those bands on our website. In Toronto, there are a few geek bands and we promote each other as much as we can.
However, listeners are still gained one at a time. And so we engage our audience, one at a time on whichever platform they’ll meet us on, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter or our website. We have a chat on our website, which we use whenever we have a live streaming show, or the podcast I’m involved in does a live broadcast. We have a forum where people can start topics and talk (although admittedly, I haven’t had time to go on the forum). We have a wiki which we have asked others to help update. We try to involve them in our group as much as possible. Personally, when people do fan art, or cosplay as us (it’s happened), I think it’s amazing! So we try and ask them questions. I’ve seen bands do Fan Fridays on Twitter. I’ve seen bands include them in their music vids. Basically, you want to encourage engagement through your content.
Debs: Whoa. I think we could go an entire article just on this question.
First, this might sound a little cliche, but I think it really comes down to being yourself. As musicians, we are essentially our own brands. Your audience genuinely wants to know you and they want to know what you’re up to. So if I’m doing band taxes, I’ll post a status update about it. If we’ve just finished a show and it’s 2:00am and we’re exhausted, we’ll take and post that picture. If we’ve just done a big convention, we’ll try to squeeze in a blog post. This is just one approach to content creation, but we think it’s a good one. It also means that you’ll never lack for things to talk about because it’s essentially things you are doing day-to-day.
It’s also worth thinking about how you could turn other things that you are doing anyway into shareable content. For example, if you are playing a show, get a video camera set up and then upload some of the footage to YouTube. Time efficiency is good.
Finally, it’s great take a step back and see what works. Analytics, metrics and plain old just asking your audience can give you a really good sense of what kind of content is working for you and generating the kind of engagement you want. Don’t be afraid of experimenting – creating content can be fun!
Listen to Debs & Errol:
Find out more at http://debsanderrol.com
Creating Your Own Hooks
For most people, coming up with a content strategy is the hardest part. Think about what makes you unique. What is your niche area? What do you have in common with your fans? What do YOU like in a website when you’re visiting?
Having a great looking website is not enough – you need to give people a reason to come back, but it needs to be about more than just selling or promoting. It’s like on social media – people don’t mind self promotion so much when it’s done in moderation, and in conjunction with a less promotional approach overall.
I hope that this interview has sparked some ideas and inspired you to create something that is going to engage your audience. A big thank you, of course, goes out to Debs & Errol for taking the time to speak with me.
Let’s hear from you!
What do you currently do to encourage repeat visitors to your website? Have you seen anything that really stands out, that has turned you into a fan?