Don’t Mess With Mr Inbetween.
For my cynical, sarcastic and often downright rude rundown of some of the cheap flimflam tricks musicians use to promote themselves, see here. Here though, are some further observations, and this time … it’s digital.
Let’s say you’re an act or a venue and someone’s approached you offering to promote you, for a fee, natch. They claim they have special access, special targeting strategies, they waffle about synergies, etc and they can up your audience numbers. They claim an impressive client list, including famous musicians, venues and agencies. You could be the new artist formerly known as yourself, baby. Sound tempting?
[SFX of bomb dropping] The major listings agencies don’t charge anybody to submit basic event information. And the smaller sites automatically rip the most popular info that’s relevant to their niche market from the big boys. Or just rip the whole lot.
Paid advertising is a different matter – but that isn’t what’s on offer. We’re talking about listings. This flash git with his pretty graphs, pleasingly spun statistics and sophisticated SEO strategies wants you to pay him (in advance and with no guarantee) to do something that you could do for free yourself and with just as much chance of success.
That stellar client list, by the way… think about it. They’re probably promoting the big names for free so they can enjoy the cachet of names that pretty much promote themselves anyway as a lure to rope in mugs like you. Even if they’re doing it without the consent of the big names, why should the likes of Ronnie Scott’s or the O2 care? They’re getting free promotion and if the company is disreputable, hey they never authorised anything.
ONE BORN EVERY MINUTE
While we’re at it… Are you dealing with a him/her or a them? Cool business card, stunning website, clients from London to Paris to Bang-bleeding-kok. Wildly successful international marketing company, right? Well if that’s the case, sunshine, how come the “CEO” him or herself always seems to be personally handling your tiny account?
How come this titan of international business has the time between board meetings and international flights? The CEO of Pfizer doesn’t engage in personal correspondence because your Viagra had a corner chipped off and Doris is disappointed but loves you just the way you are. EdF’s CFO doesn’t take a passionate interest in Mrs Miggins’ meter readings.
Oh, and they usually get you to do all of the work. You have to carefully work to their specified data structure and even supply your own search terms. Hang on a minute [SFX of record scratch] – weren’t they supposed to be taking care of the targeting side of things with their ninja marketing skills? Wasn’t that the whole point of the deal back when you signed? Now it turns out that you’re supposed to pay them for hitting CTRL C and CTRL V*. Of course, everybody has to make a living, but that’s some overhead, huh?
“International reach”? Wow, I see from the report that two desperate horny teenagers in Philly have accidentally clicked the link you’ve given me on craigslist while searching for sensual stimulation of an entirely different kind. Anyway, it’s not much use to you if a confused drunk “eyeballs” your ad and clicks through, when they’re in Kuala Lumpur and your gig is in Wigan. Is it, oh Obi Wan, Marketing Knight?
Little men pretending to be big men are very often conmen.
That impressive sounding office address is almost certainly a box account – the correspondence will be forwarded to Upper Floor Spare Bedroom, 33 Crappington Close, Hull. And for all the bamboozling legalese they spout, a junior solicitor could flatten them like a truck hitting a hedgehog… Honestly, I’ve investigated some of these people, and they’re not lawyers any more than those revolting vipers in the timeshare trade.
ONE MORE THING…
It’s hard enough to earn a living as a musician as it is, so I’d strongly advise you to tell these loathsome flash-harry leeches where to go and keep the handful of crumpled notes you’ve been paid for a three-set slog where they belong – in your pocket.
Promote yourself – it’s free.
One more thing… A point often made by my late father – the golden rule of marketing is to get the product right. So when you’ve sent those emails to get your events listed for free, you could always go and practise, I suppose… Can’t do any harm, can it?
* Incidentally, regarding keyboard shortcuts for cut and paste and fast manoeuvres, the CTRL, SHIFT, APPLE and FUNCTION keys used to be known among my generation of production journos as “the piano keys”. Usually played with the left hand while the mouse solos.