Home stretch of Brenda K’s odyssey through “Music Success in Nine Weeks” by Ariel Hyatt!   

OK, we’re really under the gun now with the deadline of the Music Success in Nine Weeks’ great blog-off right in my face, so I’d better get cracking on working through Chapters 6, 7 and 8.  I combined them because they are so closely related, and I have at least put my toe into the process of executing the tasks addressed in each, although not quite as rigorously as I would have liked, again given everything else I have going on now (and spring planting season is upon us as we speak, at least in SoCal!).

Panache house, Panache jungle, urban gardening,

Almost spring planting time!

Chapter 6

Chapter 6 shares some collective wisdom on how to go about connecting with and engaging our fans.  This is the area that has been the most entirely neglected in my promotional efforts to date.  In fact, it’s hard to even say the phrase “my promotional efforts to date” with a straight face since they have been so feeble and half-baked.

Well, on the first page of Chapter 6 Ariel hit it right on the head in that I turn into a big fluffy ball like a cranky cat

Laxmi Saito, The Panache Cats, The Panache Orchestra, Panache house, rescuing feral kittens

Baby Laxmi when she first came in our house

at the thought of having to think of my “nakama” (Japanese for close friends and family), and even other people in general that I come into contact with as “customers” (see post I’m going to publish as soon as I finish these two for further clarification on this issue), and I’m trying to mentally justify my recent attempts to cajole them into signing up for my brand-new band newsletter with the idea that I could probably win an international award for being the world’s worst communicator, so at least they’ll know I’m still breathing when The Panache Orchestra’s newsletter arrives in their in-box each month (assuming I can manage to publish it at that pace).

Next came an exercise to help us identify common themes among our core fans, and thence help us focus our newsletter in a way that will connect with them.  As I work through this, I realize how glaringly obvious most of this is, and wonder why I didn’t think of it myself…but apparently most other musicians don’t either, so I won’t beat myself up too hard over it.

Anyway, Ariel follows with specific advice as to what to write in the newsletter that stands a fair to good chance of resonating with other people, which is a real God-send for me, since I have managed to live for an embarrassingly long time without developing any good understanding of what makes people tick.  That is obviously a critical issue in this current era in which making it as a musician apparently has next to nothing to do with musicianship and practically everything to do with having or manufacturing a personality that would logically form the nucleus of a personality cult.  WTF?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Another tip Ariel gave us was to survey our fans to find out what they want and recommended a tool to facilitate that.  What a concept!  I LOVE that idea and have loads of thoughts that I will crash-test on subsequent newsletters.

Chapter 6 closed with a recommendation of a service that will do our newsletters for us (to spare us the pain I just described in the post immediately prior to this one!), but hélas, I’m just too pathological of a control freak to outsource my lifeline to my nascent fan base!

Chapter 7

Chapter 7 gave us specific pointers on how to go about populating our mailing list, including effective ways to reach out to people as part of a process of building and maintaining a relationship with them while earning their trust and building value into our newsletter and offerings by communicating with them regularly and consistently.  Ariel even went so far as to suggest sample text to use when approaching people we have fallen out of touch with, and a system for managing our mailing list-building contacts.

Another great suggestion was to do some list swapping with other bands, and various specific tips on how to do that effectively.  Even though we’re very short on sound-alikes (see Genre Identification post), we have worked with lots of other bands and musicians, so this has great potential once we build our list to a size they would find of interest.

Ok, I have a feeling that the advice about using cell phones as fan collection devices is geared toward younger people because it does not resonate with me at all (in fact, the mere thought of having to use my cell phone for that purpose makes me a little green around the gills), and since a lot of TPO fans are older than I am, I just have “that” feeling about the looks I would get if I asked attendees of TPO shows to text me their information prior to starting the show, however efficient it might be.  For that matter, as a dyed-in-the-wool orchestra (classical) player, I have enough trouble already with having to talk during performances at all!  Carrying this further, I am having to work really hard to imagine myself being able to pull off some of the more audacious marketing stunts recommended in Chapter 7.  (Ok, I’ll admit that I haven’t actually put my toe or any other part of my body into this bit, or even read/comprehended it in its entirety yet…Aiye!!)

The point was well taken, nonetheless, about how to identify, approach, manage and follow up with potential prospects for one’s list, and I have been gingerly implementing these suggestions and getting some positive results, so I feel safe in concluding that I should increase my efforts and anticipate still better results.

That said, I am getting the feeling that everyone is run so ragged just trying to exist, and so overwhelmed by in-box overflow/ contact overload/ data slam, that the last thing they want is more email and things to do, which would explain the relatively small percentage of people I reach out to – admittedly few so far out of all the possibilities — who actually do click the link and subscribe to the mailing list, which I haven’t even used yet(!).  Wait — Nooooooooo!!  That’s too embarrassing!!  There’s only one pomodoro worth of work left on that task (I’ll post about that as soon as I finish this series – promise!), so I’ll stop writing this blog and do it right now!  [Update: mission accomplished, but it ended up taking at least FOUR pomodori….WHEN does this get easier?!!]

Anyway, the first step in the exercise concluding Chapter 7 is to regularly set aside time specifically for building our list, and I will make that a part of my weekly routine, as well as formalize my mental list of other bands and entities we have worked with that are potential candidates for a list exchange, and also draft a form letter to keep handy at all workstations I use instead of creating each one from scratch as I get around to it.  I have already added the list sign-up widget, and I will find some more places to put it.

Chapter 8

Chapter 8 arms us with information and techniques for connecting with people who we aren’t already close to, and are meeting for the first time, and what I especially appreciated about this information is that I don’t feel that I have to stress out over having to try to pitch myself and my product as if I were selling life insurance, and instead just relax and get to know the other person and see where we connect.  Thankfully, I finally splashed out the cash to get my first “real”, “adult”, “professional” business cards designed and printed back in November, so now I have one at last to hand out when people ask for it instead of doing the cocktail napkin thing!

It also resonated with me to think in terms of how I can help other people I meet in getting what they are looking for, whatever that may be.  That really takes the discomfort out of feeling like I’m supposed to be “promoting myself”.  Right on the heels of that advice was a direct hit on probably my most conspicuous Achilles’ heel (remember that line above about me being a terrible communicator?) – my consistent and historic failure to follow up with people and maintain the relationships!

Chapter 8 concluded with a very helpful suggestion to think through opportunities to meet other people and get mentally clear about our goals, and then setting some specific ones for the event we are about to attend.  That lack of preparation has sabotaged great opportunities for me countless times on my own part, and with Chi being the absolute PR travesty that he is, and me having to take him with me pretty much any time I go anywhere, whatever opportunities I don’t sabotage for myself, he sabotages for me.

To sum up what I have done so far with chapters 6, 7 and 8, I recently made a resolution to make absolutely sure to follow up with everyone I get contact information from, whether at a gig or if I just go somewhere and meet someone who expressed interest in my band, before I go to bed that night no matter how beat I am, and I am pleased to say that I actually did that last Sunday night for the first time!  On the other hand, I still have a batch of events planning industry contacts sitting on my desk from two (going on three) weeks ago that I have only followed up with one of so far — and a week late at that – tisk, tisk!  But better late than not at all….

I am also beginning to see what appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel, in that I am feeling like the huge number of carts chaotically massed in front of my one beleagured, exhausted and malnourished horse are beginning to sort themselves out and cart the rubble away in a somewhat orderly fashion.  That is to say that the massively time consuming and labor intensive  phase of constructing The Panache Orchestra’s online presence is complete enough for major aspects of its day-to-day maintenance and work flow to take shape and become almost manageable.  (Did that make any sense at all?)