This year’s Americana Music Festival (Sept. 12-15) featured musical legends Bonnie Raitt and Booker T. Jones and saw an 8% year over year attendee increase to just under 1200 participants this year. The AMA organization has also grown and now includes 1,634 members among its ranks.
This year’s Americana Event presented almost 175 panels, workshops and musical performances, plus extended itself into a variety of Nashville venues. Next year’s event has already been slated for Sept. 18-22, 2012 and will again be in Music City.
One of the Event’s new offerings was a series of seven technology-track panels hosted by Topspin Media and curated by the company’s Nashville-based Sr. Director of Artist Services,, Wayne Leeloy. Topspin CEO Ian Rogers also gave a keynote address during which he discussed the challenges of building a DTF (direct to fan) business and introduced some of Topspin’s upcoming new features designed to help artists do a better job of connecting with fans.
“Do one small thing weekly and one big thing monthly,” Rogers advised in response to questions about balancing artistry and marketing during his keynote. “Online we all have a chance to seek out what we love, unlike with traditional media where we get stuck with average.” Rogers named driving traffic as one of the goals that should be high on an artist’s digital agenda. “We have so many tools with which to build a site,” he noted, “but it’s hard to get people to come see.” Rogers unveiled Topspin’s new GoDirect products which are designed to help grow fan base, communicate and sell digital merchandise and tickets.
The following are a few standout quotes from three of the Americana Music Conference TopspinMedia panels…
Best Practices For Social Media
Moderator: Dave Delaney, consultant; Ashley Mixson, Girlilla Mktg; Michael Schneider, Bandpage; Jeffrey Horne, MoxieFlock; Rachel Barnhard, Borman Ent.; and Josh Collum, Sorted Noise.
Mixson: It’s about finding your voice, the best way to stand out. Be personable, not personal.
Barnhard: Pick a name and visual branding unique to you and use it across all platforms. We look at engagement over everything, it’s one of the most important metrics for us. Some of the tools we find useful include Crowdbooster, and bitly.com which offers click analytics. Converting Facebook names to email addresses is a high priority for us. The email list is like a retirement plan.
Collum: If you are touring then be sure to capture zip codes with the emails so you can target fans geographically. Define your objectives first, then think about tactics…
Schneider: Find out where your demo spends its time online and be there.
A Crash Course in Fan Engagement
Moderator Wayne Leeloy, Topspin Media; Cameo Carlson, Borman Ent.; Paul Jankowski, Access Brand Strategies; Jason Colton, Redlight Management; Sloane Cavitt-Logue, Showdog Universal; and Dara Carson, Digital Media Strategist.
Jankowski: Before you build it, know what your brand stands for, what it means. A brand is a collection of perceptions or a promise, so everything you do must be consistent. What’s the message? Building a fan base is a tactic, but you must have a strategy first. Sustainable engagements yield advocacy. Be culturally relevant.
Carlson: You need to communicate authentically, not just be consistent. Find the place where you are comfortable. Tactical advice is to create events that give fans a reason to talk to you and about you. Let your fans create some of that content. Be sure to take advantage of on site one-on-one moments with a call to action—ask fans to give you their email or post a photo, etc.
Carson: People are connecting with an emotional heart, so authenticity is key. When the Loveless Cafe jumped into social media things skyrocketed and they engaged a new audience, but they would say it’s about responding to fans rather than selling. Actually Pinterest generates most of their traffic. Photo tagging can create great fan engagement. Let your fans know what hashtag to use. If you build you tribe well, it may be loyal for life.
Colton: A fan acquisition tactic can be to use Noisetrade which gives away free music in exchange for emails and zip codes.
Music Discovery, The Best Apps, Platforms and Sites to Reach Fans and Make Money
Moderator: Glenn Peoples, Billboard; Adam Parness, Rhapsody; Kyla Fairchild, No Depression; Craig Shelburne, CMT Edge; Katy Kirby, Brite Revolution, Aimee Higgins, Pandora
Parness: Rhapsody is the largest on demand service. It has over 17 million tracks and almost everything gets played at least once a month.
Fairchild: At No Depression we crowd source content and choose the best submission each day to highlight. Writers post without compensation.
Kirby: Brite Revolution is a curated Fan/Artist social media discovery tool where you can listen and download thousands of songs for free and also support the artists you love. It has about 60k active users.
Peoples: Just before this panel I asked my Twitter fans how they like to discover music and heard everything except going to a record store.
More information about this year’s event, including a complete list of honors and awards can be found here.