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Marketing lessons from Musicport: where did you come from?
2011-11-09: I've just come back from helping to market Musicport, an international music festival and something really struck me.
I pretty much knew nothing about any of the artists playing, even the famous ones like Hugh Masekela. I've been out of music for a long time .. I can't listen to music and work, and I work all the time. The only music I listen to is for the covers band I drum in.
Prior to the festival, I did a tune a day podcast for two months in which I randomly selected a tune from the CDs provided by the artists. Randomly, because I knew nothing about them so couldn't make an informed decision.
Worse .. I didn't think of myself as being into folk or world music. I didn't. I do now.
Anyway, my point is .. I started with all these artists from a clean slate.
Patrick Hanlon's Primal Branding says there are seven elements to creating a powerful brand, and one of those is the creation story. In order to trust, we need to know where someone is coming from. It helps us predict what they will do, makes us feel comfortable, helps us model that person in our heads. So, in the book, he says, we all know the story of Steve Jobs, of the guy who created FedEx after his college professor laughed at him, the founding of the United States .. everything, everyone, started somewhere, and if we don't know, they are just .. left hanging.
So let's just shortlist the artists that meant such a lot to me over the weekend.
Chris Wood is the archetypal folk singer bearded bloke with a guitar that I didn't much care for beforehand. He provided two CDs to the podcast, so got twice as many plays and in his album Trespassers he talks about the English enclosures which, frankly, I had no idea about. He also won the BBC Radio 2 best folk song award for this year for his song about the shooting of Jean Charles De Menezes. So now, this is no fey folk singer warbling on about the herring season, this is a politically active man of the people. My kinda man. We must hold similar values. He and I must be similar.
When he played, on the day, I didn't realise another element to him. He's soft and gentle and loving, and sings of marital love, and lifetime love. My values, again. Love with depth.
I met him afterwards when he signed a CD and I said "I don't like folk music" and he said "Oh, neither do I". In reply to something or other I asked, he said, "The English don't have enough pride. Have you ever seen crap Flamenco? No, because they are proud of it, they give it love and attention. And I don't mean ridiculous jingoism, Land of Hope and Glory stuff, I mean .. if you grow apples, grow fabulous apples. Put in the care and attention to detail, and be proud of it."
The guy's Ghandi!
So, I wanted to see him because I'd modelled him as politically aware and with the folk award he came with social proof. The more I listened, the more of him I could model and agree with.
Mercedes Peon is a Spanish artist who has studied the traditional music and women of Galicia and built a modern sound inspired by those rhythms and sounds. I like Spain, and I'm a feminist, so we're all connected up there.
She stands at a drumkit, so it's rhythm based. I'm a drummer. More connected.
Mari Boine is a Sami, an ethnic group living across the borders of northern Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia, whose culture was banned and suppressed. Cool, a story of triumph over adversity. Another strong woman. Music of the land and the people. And tribal rhythms. All connect strongly with me.
Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell .. this is interesting in terms of mental modelling. I didn't know anything about them, walked into the room and they sounded so delicate and beautiful. But the tipping point for me was when Lucy chided Jonny for eating three MacDonalds in one night. It felt like they were a couple. I've no idea if they are, but in my mind they are and I just fell in love with them as an idea.
Having adolesced to punk, I'm used to the music of dissent being energetic and young. Yet here I was discovering a new world of music of dissent, music of the people, a way of cutting through the spin of the BBC news. It was all good.
So, is it the mere existence of a back story that works, or does the back story need to 'connect' with the buyer? Is it about demonstrating that the buyer and seller are cut from the same cloth, hold the same values, are like each other. Similarity is a persuader, people like people like themselves.
Iain Matthews, used to be in Fairport Convention, massive load of albumns, big in the folk world .. I've no links with Fairport Convention so it means nothing to me.
Hugh Masekela .. I mean, enormous, and huge respect to him, a long history, lived through the apartheid. Nothing much hit home for me. But then, he didn't send any CDs, so I never had the time to get to know him.
12lve, Goldie's Band .. I know the story .. Goldie travelled the country to find talented and committed musicians who had used music to overcome adversity (how's that for a strong back story) and mentored them into becoming a band. It's like a supergroup, each member is a master of their art. Big respect to them. But I didn't see the TV programme. Didn't get a CD. I haven't, yet, let them into my heart.
Mary Coughlan, survived drink, drugs, financial cock ups and lived to tell the tale. But that doesn't speak to me hugely and .. no CD beforehand so I didn't spend enough time to let her in either.
This business about not receiving a CD is interesting. It feels, to me, like a weeny little snub. It's a negative. We asked, you didn't send. First impressions, the void is filled with it. Just from a marketing perspective, that doesn't seem good.
Mari Boine didn't send a CD tho.
So how do we use this, online?
It means a couple of things.
Firstly, it means, get your history out there. Let people know where you come from and what you stand for. And craft your story. Make it memorable, make it resonate, and consider the values you are publicising and whether they resonate with your target audience .. they need to match.
Secondly, it means you have to find a way to make that real, for free, so people can experience you and see if you do what you say you do. Whether that's on a Twitter stream or through free samples or whatever, people often need a little time to trust you. But once you're in, unless you mess it up (Andy Kershaw), you're in forever.

By John Allsopp
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