By Jillian Lavin a.k.a. Spritely -- spritelymusic.com
How many spammy "want more followers?" comments do you get on your Instagram posts? What about those random emoji or "beautiful!" comments by people with 21k followers?
Hate to burst your bubble, but those are automated comments done by services like Instagress, Instamacro, and RoboInsta. They claim to draw in new followers by liking, commenting, and following hundreds (if not thousands) of accounts per day.
At the end of February, I got a personal email from a company called Jumper Media. They claimed that their service would gain me 1-2k more followers over the course of a month for just $150. They caught me at just the right time: I recently had a social media reality check, realizing that though I loathe Instagram, social media traction is a necessity for the modern musician. What I didn't realize is that followers do not equal traction.
The service was a great ego boost -- at first, I saw my follower number rising by 50-75 people per day. Then the growth plateaued, and even dipped on a few days. Why? Instagram became polluted with these spammy tactics and people caught on. I would get notifications from people laughing at my automated "Stunning, love your page <3" comment, clearly irrelevant to the crass meme it was posted on. I noticed that my own posts each became subject to 5-6 of these empty comments, and started to realize how trasparent this tactic seemed. Moreover, despite the 1k follower boost I did achieve, my post engagement was pathetic in comparison; though my follower count tripled, the average number of likes per picture increased by a mere 50%. Thus, it was unsurprising that my Spotify and Facebook likes did not increase significantly either.
The worst part? At the end of my month with Jumper Media, a quick Google search pointed me to the other services mentioned above, which did the exact same thing as at dramatically lower prices.
Despite all I have said thus far, I am thankful to Jumper Media and I'm glad I did it. Follower count is an important indicator of a musician's legitimacy, and having 1,700 followers verses 600 followers could be the factor that makes a music blog actually pay attention to the song you send them. That said, from here on out, I'm putting my attention on the content, not b.s. growth hacking services.
TL;DR: Growth-hacking robots can increase your surface-level #cred (which is helpful!), but won't earn you new fans.
By Emily Hunter
Being a musician in college can be tough. If you're like me and are taking a full load of units, working at a part-time job AND interning, you don't have much time OR money to work on your own music projects. Meaning, things like building up your community engagement with your fans and branding yourself as an artist can slip through the cracks. But fret not! I have a few tricks and tips that will help you get you and your music out there on a budget!
TIP #1: Write And Arrange Music As Much As Possible
Though this can seem daunting with a busy schedule, it's so crucial to have a decent amount of original material in your back pocket. You never know when someone is going to contact you through your artist page, email, or blog about hearing more of your originals. Also, if you're on a budget, this is the best way to start getting yourself out there. With more original material, you can do more live performances, which in turn, can grasp the attention of more potential fans who can follow your social media pages.
TIP #2: Don't Be Afraid To Ask For Help
Let's be real, all of us need some help sometimes. Whether your weakness as a musician is music theory, mixing, recording, or posting on your social media pages, asking for help from other musician friends, teachers, or contacts within the music industry is absolutely the best way to get things done. Unfortunately, sometimes this can be one of the hardest parts of being a new musicians, as you can often feel obnoxious asking for help. However, JUST DO IT! The worst that can happen is they won't be able to help you. However, in my experience, most young musicians are looking for one thing in the music industry: experience. So you can help them build up their experience in the industry by letting them help you. It's that simple.
TIP #3: Search For Services That Can Help You Stay On Task
Believe it or not, there are a lot of services out there that can help musicians on a budget. Below are a few of my favorites!
For help with re-branding/managing your artist social media accounts:
1) BEGIN marketing and consulting (www.howdoibegin.com)
As an employee at BEGIN, I am a bit biased towards our company and it's services, however, as a musician myself, I can honestly say that getting a free consultation with BEGIN is 100% worth it. Why wouldn't you want to receive FREE advice from experts in the music industry about how you can improve your online presence as an artist?
2) Epoxy.tv (http://epoxy.tv)
If you're a forgetful person like me, you know how frustrating it can be when you forget to update your Instagram or Facebook artist pages throughout the week. But again, fret not! Epoxy is an amazing service that you can use to schedule posts weeks in advance so you don't even need to think about it throughout the week! Of course, this service is not as cheap as BEGIN, but you can even just sign up for their service for a month or two to get your pages back on track. It's 100% worth it.
For help with getting connected to other artists that you can collaborate with:
1) FAM (http://thefammusic.com)
FAM is a new organization that helps young artists get connected to other people trying to pursue careers in the music industry. Whether that means that they connect you with other artists, musicians, audio engineers, producers, or managers, the service assists upcoming musicians with getting connected to the resources that they need in order to successfully make music.
2) Fleeber (http://en.fleeber.com)
Much like FAM, Fleeber connects musicians with other musicians and people pursuing careers in the music industry
For help with creating content in an inexpensive way:
1) E-Home Recording Studio (http://ehomerecordingstudio.com/cheapest-recording-studio/)
Read this article! It breaks down the type of equipment you need in a recording studio and tells you all about how to get the best equipment your possibly can get on a budget. You don't need to pay hundreds of dollars to get a high quality recording! There are ways around it!
2) Check out some of my personal favorite ~inexpensive~ pieces of recording equipment below!
Focusrite Scarlett 2i4
Though not under $100 (Focusrites are usually in the $150-200 range) the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 is a pretty high performance, low-latency interface that creates great recordings AND is on the cheaper side for the quality that it delivers!
MXL 990 Condensor Mic
This mic ranges from $79.99-$100 on Amazon and delivers a crisp, condensed sound. The MXL mic series is great in general, but this is a true gem and is fairly inexpensive for high quality condenser mics!
Any Male/Female Mic Cables On Amazon
Amazon is the place to buy them because they are cheap, cheap, cheap!
So now that you've read my main tricks and tips for getting music out there on a budget, it's your turn! Get out there and create, you wonderful artist, you!
Emily Hunter is a senior at the University of Southern California and currently a summer intern at BEGIN
Congrats to everyone who made it to the Top 32 of BEGIN's March Music Madness! Each artist will go head to head against each other, and whoever has the most votes will move on to the next round! So if you want an artist you like to move on, MAKE SURE YOU VOTE!! Round 1 voting will end on March 23rd at 10pm PST. Click the link below to see the bracket and vote for your favorite artists! Good luck!
By Rebecca Poizner
Thinking about hitting the road with your band? I'm sure the first thing you thought of when you booked the tour was "but what should I pack?!" I know, that's the first thing I thought about too when I went out of my first cross country tour. So I figured I'd let you guys in on 5-key things I never leave home without before starting a tour:
1. Portable Cell Phone Charger
I honestly don't know what I would have done without 2 of these in my pockets at all time. I was on the management side of the tour, managing a pop artist on a 41-date U.S. tour, and spent 80% of my day reading and sending emails. I couldn't get through a few hours, let alone a full day just on my iPhone battery. This goes for musicians as well. There is TERRIBLE cell service in most venues...and trust me, your battery takes a beating because of it. So a portable charger really is worth every penny.
Backstage is never well lit, plus there's hundreds of bumps and cables all over the floor. As someone who has seen probably a thousand people trip backstage, I never left the bus without a flashlight so I wouldn't have to face that same embarrassment.
3. Scented Spray / Tide Pen
As often as you'd like to shower on tour, the luxury unfortunately doesn't happen as often as you'd like. There are some venues with showers, but let's be honest, they are disgusting. If you are going to brave them, definitely bring some flip flops with you. But for the few days in a row you (and the rest of the bus/van) have to go showerless, scented spray and tide pens come in very handy. The entire bus will thank you.
You'd be surprised how often this came in handy. It's usually for a miscellaneous use, or someone asking if anyone has a Sharpie on them. You'll be the hero who always has one in their pocket.
5. Soundproof Headphones
And not just regular Apple headphones. Ones that also block out sound. This is a biggie, especially if it's a long tour. As well as you get along with your tour mates, you are all confined to a very tight space for a very long time, so having some alone time is vital. Going into your bunk with the curtain shut and your sound proof headphones on is one of the only escapes sometimes. They will help you stay sane (or at least as sane as you were before the tour started).
Hope some of these suggestions help you out when you and your band hits the road. Obviously you should probably bring some clothes and your gear along as well, but trust me, people will think you're a touring expert if you always have these 5 things in your bag! Happy touring!
Rebecca Poizner is the Director of Digital Marketing for BEGIN.
By Eric Chisholm
Note from Jane: I met our guest blogger right in my own backyard. He was living in a unit above the garage of my building while I first started New Music Empire (BEGIN's predecessor) about 3 years ago. I asked him to write for us because I'm a huge fan of a series on his blog "The Best Jobs in the World". Enjoy.
Your blog has hit a dead spot and your brain is blocked. The best-proven advice is to write what you know. Most people are hesitant to take advice about inspiration and generating content from a guy who crunches numbers and coaches college basketball.
If you ever followed high school hoops in Ohio between 2004 and 2007, then you probably still didn’t hear about me. For the better part of a decade, I was only known as a basketball player. It was hard being a first generation Korean-American playing basketball in the Midwest.
After two lackluster seasons in college, I left the game I loved to pursue the world of film. This pursuit was very brief, but it satisfied my urge and gave me amazing experiences and insights.
After the film endeavor, I chased the dream of becoming a business executive. While this is my most recent trail, you might be wondering how this is all connected to writing and blogging.
Still with me?
There isn’t much need for a college basketball coach who appreciates Charlie Chaplain and has an MBA, but I pride myself in having a wealth of knowledge in all three areas. None of the concentrations really intertwine.
I view this as an advantage.
Whether you are operating a personal makeup blog or a blog for a company, it’s important to find your niche. Your niche has to be something you love and a subject in which you can demonstrate a wealth of expertise. I just happen to have three passions.
Alright, you have that niche down but you maybe you’ve run out of guru ideas. It’s okay to get personal. Ready for one of those lists?
1. Talk about past failures.
Everyone has failed, and we all want to find that support group that offers comfort when we feel alone.
2. Don’t be afraid to share a major success or achievement.
Your readers and audience want to know you’re doing well; if you’re not, they might not find value in your brand.
3. Remember to show your value to the world.
Sometimes you have to offer a free sample to get someone to buy the entire product.
4. Point people to others for the areas that you cannot help them.
While we would hate to have people leave our sites, this will build trust and become a future investment.
5. If you’re absolutely out of ideas or topics, then hire someone.
It’s not weakness. Sometimes it helps to have a full-time blog writer.
You can’t make everyone happy with your life and experiences. You’re definitely not going to appeal to everyone with your writing. If you offend a few people, you’re probably doing something right. It shouldn’t be your main goal to hurt feelings, but it happens to be a by-product when you’re honest with your audience and yourself.
I can’t play basketball anymore. My knees are shot and my reflexes have slowed. I am no longer in the film industry, and who knows how long I’ll stay on the business executive path.
But, I have accumulated tons of knowledge, skills, and experience to pass along to people who need it. Readers, customers, and audiences will know if you enjoy it and know your materials.
Eric Chisholm is a blogger, business manager, assistant college basketball coach and husband. You can read his detailing of "The Best Jobs in the World" and other posts on his website ericchisholm.com
Kyle Kennedy, one of our summer interns, came to LA for the first time to spend her summer in her office. On her last day, we asked her to share with our readers what it was like to come from Miami to LA in order to pursue a career in entertainment. She learned a lot about managing social media accounts, but she also learned a lot about our city!
Note: We're looking for Fall 2016 interns! See our post here.
Hollywood, CA, land of fabulocity and glamour- or so I thought. When I found out I would be living in Hollywood, I imagined somewhere completely phenomenally, unimaginably, mind blowing. When I came back to earth, I realized that the only reason we all think Hollywood is glamorous, is because it’s in movies. Don’t get me wrong, I love having had the opportunity to live in Hollywood, but it’s definitely not as attractive as I imagined. People don’t walk down the street dressed in Balenciaga and Louboutin like you might imagine, it’s far more casual, though you might see a pair of Yeezy’s every so often. My first experience in Hollywood was a crazy dude walking down the street yelling at the sky getting arrested. I mention all of this to say, movies are movies for a reason, and nothing is perfect but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it to experience and enjoy.
Make time to explore LA! If you’ve never been here, it’s one of the most amazing places to be and there are tons of things to do all around LA. Staying true to tourist tendencies, I took a Hollywood tour and got to see the homes of JLo, Johnny Depp, the home used in Iron Man and The Godfather, Dr. Seuss’ house, and many more. It seems corny, but it is a highlight of Hollywood, and I would definitely do it again.
Another thing that shouldn’t be missed is the hike to the Hollywood sign. Now I have to be honest, I should have checked how long the actual hike is because it’s definitely not a walk through the park. I went through a HUGE range of emotions on this hike.
While at the bottom of the hill, all I could think was…
And then when I was about halfway there…
And then there was the top of the hill, when I finally made it to the top…
I was so proud of myself when I reached the top! It’s one of the most beautiful views of the city, but I would recommend going with someone who is from LA so you know what parts of LA you’re looking at.
Food is a necessity for anyone, and Los Angeles is one of the hubs of incredible restaurants. I can honestly say that everywhere I’ve eaten out was a heaven on earth experience. Let us start with In n Out. You know how you roll your eyes at your friends when they say it’s the best fast food, well, they’re right. The food at In n Out is fresh, tasty, and cheap! The bang is definitely worth your buck. Being that LA is inundated with many cultures, there are is array of different styles of food to try. Another one of my places is this place, Republique, a quaint French bakery and eatery located at La Brea and 6th. I’m not a huge bread person, but the pastries and bread are made fresh daily, and the quality of food is incredible. Definitely deserves five stars.
If you love to shop, like I do, you should definitely NOT go to Rodeo Dr. unless you’ve got money to blow. But if you’re ballin’ on a budget like most recent college grads, you should definitely make your way to the fashion district. It’s located downtown and is super easy to get to. A great part of the fashion district is called Santee Alley. They have everything from makeup to clothes, to phone accessories, to jewelry and sunglasses. Literally you can get EVERYTHING there. Trying to ditch your boyfriend and check out the latest styles? Check. Trying to ditch your girlfriend and find some fun gadgets? Check. Everything you want is located in the area. They even have food! You have to stop at one of the stands and get a hotdog wrapped in bacon—sorry vegetarians—but it is a chicken hotdog for anyone with dietary restrictions. So delicious and well deserved after hours of shardio (shopping+cardio).
If you aren’t a lover of dogs, LA may not be the place for you. Anywhere. Everywhere. Dogs. Need to buy a new pair of shoes? You’ll probably run into a Chihuahua. Need to buy a cute top or dress? You’ll probably see a pug. Trying to catch a quick ride on the bus? So is Fido the black lab. I’m sure you’d say surely there are no dogs in a grocery store? HA. There are no limits for where our four legged friends can go in LA. Look out for cute pooches at bars with their owners too.
Before you leave LA, you have to visit West Hollywood, or WeHo, as all LA natives call it. Santa Monica Blvd every night of the week is poppin and they ain’t stoppin. From food to boutiques to clubs, there are so many options for a great time.
All this to say, while enjoying life in LA, make sure you get work done for your internship because more than likely, you will learn more than you could imagine. So be ready to absorb! But, don’t forget…
Kyle Kennedy is a senior Music Business/Theatre major at University of Miami. She spent her summer interning for BEGIN. She hopes to pursue a career as a stylist or costumer in the entertainment industry while continuing to develop her marketing skills.
By Sarah Virk
If you knew me in college, you’d probably recall me walking around campus carrying around just about any book I can get my hands on by Malcolm Gladwell. I wrote notes on every page and had post-its sticking out of the side in every color imaginable. I even spent the majority of winter break sitting on the dock by the Ferry Building in San Francisco reading “The Tipping Point” with my posse of pigeons while drinking my Blue Bottle Coffee.
I was sitting in our mid-Wilshire office a couple weeks ago trying to find come up with some new marketing techniques. I decided to stalk Gladwell to see if he was writing anything new for The New Yorker. Sadly, there was nothing new as of December of last year, but something else caught my eye:
“Welcome to Revisionist History, a new podcast from Malcolm Gladwell and Panoply Media”
I immediately subscribed, and I only recently resurfaced. Needless to say, it’s been an addiction… a healthy one to say the least.
In “Hallelujah”, the 7th Episode of Revisionist History, Gladwell starts off by introducing his love for music by talking about the likes of Elvis Costello, Leonard Cohen, and Jeff Buckley. Costello transformed the song “The Deportees Club” from what is considered his worst record to one of his most memorable achievements by re-recording and re-releasing the same song 9 years later as “Deportees”.
Leonard Cohen took years to write 80 verses for the song “Hallelujah” before Jeff Buckley stumbled upon on the song by chance 10 years later. Buckley quickly narrowed down his favorite verses and sang a cover spontaneously at an open mic one night which took the song from obscurity to one of the most notable songs in pop culture history.
Gladwell shines some light on this genius phenomena “...when mediocre hasn’t become genius yet…”.
Which left me thinking...
How and why do people find a sense of accomplishment at different points in their lives?
Why do some creators feel the need to reiterate their work more than others?
Gladwell introduces us to a man named David W. Glenson who is an outstanding economist with a great interest in human creativity. Glenson’s study (“Understanding Creativity) produces the idea that innovators are likely to take one of two trajectories which are broken down like so:
One one side you have The Conceptual Innovator.
A Conceptual Innovator is one who uses art to express their ideas or emotions. Glenson describes their work as “conspicuous, transgressive, and often irreverent” Their goals are defined thus they are able to precisely plan their work and execute accordingly. In Glenson’s study he mentions, “These innovations appear suddenly, as a new idea produces a result different not only from other artists’ work, but also from the artist’s own previous work.”
Glenson’s example: Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), one of the most influential artists of the 20th century also credited for co-founding the avant-garde Cubism movement. The majority of his work was characterized by a single dominant approach, and he found most of his success in his 20’s onward. There’s significant transparency in Picasso’s work that distinguishes him as a Conceptual Innovator.
On the other side you have The Experimental Innovator
Experimental Innovator typically seeks record their perceptions. Working tentatively through trial and error, they often wish to make new discoveries in the course of working, thus making the process of making art more of a search process. Glenson notes, “...the imprecision of their goals rarely allows them to feel they have succeeded, so they often have trouble finishing individual works, and generally spend their careers pursuing a single objective....”
Glenson’s example: Paul Cézanne (1889-1906) who paved way for modern artists by pioneering the Post-Impressionist style. His work is known for his repetitive and exploratory brushstrokes that form complex dimensions in his paintings. Cézanne had most of his success in his late 60’s and 70’s.
Each innovator has a genius concept cooking. For some it may take less time to execute while for others it may take longer. Despite the different trajectories each innovator takes, without implementing passion, self-discipline, and perseverance there’s a chance that greatness and things we now have become accustomed to may not have come to existence.
Had Costello not visited and rewritten his work 10 years later, the song “Deportees” would not exist. The collaboration between Leonard Cohen as an Experimental Innovator and Jeff Buckley as a Conceptual Innovator is what ultimately made the song “Hallelujah” what it is today. The phenomena of genius is constantly encountered by chance. There’s always a significant chance of greatness occurring or not occurring based on what trajectories are taken by the innovator based on who he/she is as a person.
Regardless of if you’re a “Picasso” or a “Cézanne” invest in your craft and remember that not all innovators grow and succeed in the same way. Do you.
Glenson, D.W. (2009). Understanding Creativity (Working Paper No. 16024). Retrieved from
National Bureau of Economic Research website: http://www.nber.org/papers/w16024
Sarah Virk is the co-founder and Director of Business Development for BEGIN. A lover of learning with a thirst for knowledge, she enjoys sharing personal stories to inspire creatives and entrepreneurs to discover and grow.
Tweet her @sarahvirk
By Grant Genske
I am definitely not the first musician who has thought about changing his or her name, nor will I be the last. I spent a long time debating whether or not “Grant Genske” had any ~*star quality*~ and if there was something totally different I wanted to convey with my name. I considered a number of monikers, none of which were very good, when I eventually decided that what I wanted to stick with my original name to retain the alliteration and to remain tied to my family and my suburban roots.
Even so, I was surprised at how much power I ascribed to my name, and how basic questions of identity factored into my musical brand. I became fascinated with artists who wholly or completely obscured their past (and their face) in order to develop their brand. I studied some of my favorites, and came up with some major lessons I learned from each of them.
1. Anonymity protects your privacy in a world which craves intimacy. If intimacy is not a part of your brand, then this works to create intrigue.
Sia (Sia Furler) is probably the most successful contemporary pop artist who refuses to show her face, and the biggest reason that she cites is the protection of her privacy. In a recent interview, Sia claimed that she was able to go to Target to pick up supplies while her music was being played over the radio and no one noticed her.
In a culture where Justin Bieber and Amy Schumer are banning public photos because fans have become so unruly, privacy is a luxury that artists have to protect for the sake of their sanity. Unfortunately for Schumer and Bieber, their choice will inevitably lead to fans becoming frustrated and feeling slighted.
In Sia’s case, though, fans were set up with consistent brand narrative - the intimate details of Sia’s life have never been up for grabs. Instead, fans feel rewarded with small details about the singer's life that she discloses in interviews and performances; any small piece of her past is worth its weight in gold for her admirers.
2. Intrigue creates a desire to know more (which you can parlay into media coverage).
Marshmello has taken the DJ world by storm partly because he creates tight, inventive, distinctive trap music, and partly because people are endlessly interested in who is underneath the marshmallo mask. The DJ/producer’s decision to remain totally anonymous has given him plenty of room to play around with this. Most recently, the producer played a prank on his EDC audience by staging a fake “reveal” in which he took off his mask to reveal… Tiesto. Sigh.
Using your anonymity to play with your fans is an excellent tactic - it displays a level of humanity that is essential for retaining a connection. Using Tiesto's status and success to boost your own profile doesn't hurt either...
Sia has done the same thing by incorporating celebrities like Kristen Wiig, Shia LaBeouf and frequent collaborator Maddie Ziegler into her music videos and making them the center of the narrative.
3. Anonymity allows you to posture yourself as a “pure” musician - someone who is less interested in appearance, politics or publicity and more focused on craft.
Distinguished producer Zhu (Henry Zhu) has claimed that he decided to obscure his identity partly to emphasize the artistry of his music over personality:
"This project is all about art, and we try to make it all about the songs and the response," (Zhu) said. "Being able to have everyone focus back on music is the first step.”
Many members of the dance and electronic communities complain about how the world, at times, feels like a cult of personality. Zhu's decision to obscure his identity gained him respect in a notoriously noisy field that often feels crowded with marketers and not musicians. He inspired a number of other creators to posture themselves as musicians and not comedians, models or entertainers.
Clearly, his nomination for a Grammy speaks to how the community respects his ability to produce, and his steadfast dedication to his music has led to collaborations with some of the biggest names in the business as well as rising stars of the scene.
4. Symbology sells.
The underlying thread that connects Marshmello, Sia and Zhu is that they have used a single symbol as a stand-in for their identity. In Sia’s case, the blonde bob wig IS Sia, and it carries a whole number of implications for how artists see her.
Marshmello’s helmet is so tied to his identity that he can put it on someone else (Tiesto) and they are transformed into the DJ/producer for the evening.
The most important part of this point is that symbols are easily replicable from a branding perspective. Zhu’s entire marketing strategy for his first live sets revolved around posters with his logo (the closest visual stand-in for Zhu himself) and the set date and time.
Sia was able to recruit superstars from other fields (Kristen Wiig, Maddie Ziegler) and to absorb their celebrity by placing them in the blonde bob wig in live performances and videos. Marshmello’s mask has led to fans replicating the look for their festival costumes and to a cohesive branding strategy for T-shirts, hats, Soundcloud marketing and a wide range of other applications.
Overall, anonymity can be an effective tool for both protecting your privacy and developing a relationship with fans. Artists who wish to remain anonymous should use their anonymity to create intrigue, harvest intrigue to create buzz, and develop a visual symbol to be used as a stand-in for their identity.
Grant Genske is a marketing associate with BEGIN and a singer and songwriter living in Los Angeles, California.
Intro by Jane: Today's post comes from Emmy-winning singer-songwriter, Michal Towber. I reached out to her to write a guest post for our blog because she's created such a unique re-brand for herself, and her story is fascinating. Enjoy!
Those two words sum up my entire marketing philosophy. Folks can smell bullshit from outer space. So embrace your weirdness. Cultivate it. Be yourself on steroids.
My name is Michal Towber. I am a suburban mom by day and a rockstar by night. Think Mary Louise Parker’s character in “Weeds” - except I prefer lots of black leather, fishnets, harnesses, and generous amounts of black eyeliner. I also prefer to get your brain off with raw music. You’ve probably heard my songs before without realizing it—I was signed to SONY/Columbia at 17, mentored by Billy Joel, and Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner was my prom date. Did I mention I won an Emmy?
Despite early success, I ultimately failed in the cut-throat music biz. How come? One reason: Fear. Sure, I made immature decisions as a youngster. Sure, I didn’t know how to navigate the rapidly evolving industry. But what I realize now is that underneath it all, I failed because I was afraid. Afraid of failure. Afraid of disappointing others. Afraid that my true self wasn’t cool enough to move product or be on tv. I had a massive inferiority complex. In elementary school I had one friend. If that girl was absent, I spent recess trying to look engrossed in kicking a rock around. In high school, I was a band geek who hung out in the freak hallway. This was the place where people like me, who wore braces AND glasses, could get away.
Things changed when I started writing my own songs. I found my voice and an audience. But just as I found my footing, I was thrust into a world I was utterly unprepared for. Getting signed to a major was a curse as well as a blessing –everything got scrutinized, starting with my appearance.
The marketing exec at Columbia recommended I get a nose job and lip implants. An exec at a make-up company I represented suggested lipo on my thighs. It may not surprise you to hear that I quickly developed an eating disorder. Overall, the music execs tried to pattern me after all the other blonde pop stars in the industry—a widget they knew how to market.
As for me, I had no manager, no advisors I trusted, and even my lawyer worked for the record company. My parents, both visual artists and teachers, had no idea how to help me. Male industry execs routinely propositioned me as quid pro quo for helping my career. I never felt so alone. How far would you go to make it?
In retrospect, my experience as a young artist flailing in the harsh, rapidly changing music industry, left me with PTSD. It took years for me to crawl out of the negative hole I was in, and to get to a place where I could write again without feeling intense emotional pain.
"Focusing on others helped me heal."
I even got a law degree, and worked as an IP attorney, thinking I could be happy doing something else. Bad decision. Eventually, I married, moved to suburbia and had 3 little boys in 4 years. Although having that many kids in such a short period of time is nuts, focusing on others helped me heal.
About six months ago I realized I can’t be happy doing anything other than my music. And something about pushing 3 human beings out of my birth canal, unmedicated, made me realize just how capable I am when I trust myself.
I’m no longer afraid. I am out of the closet. And I am writing the best, most honest, confessional music of my life. And that includes dirty words, and sexual fantasies. Song about wanting to be your fluffy little bitch? Check. Song about having a dirty mouth? Fuck yeah! Song about suffering with depression? I’ll admit to that. These are all facets of me, and I have no filter.
"Don't Compromise Your Vision"
I still want your approval—I want to be your own personal rockstar. But if you don’t “get me,” that’s ok too. I gotta speak my truth—and I hope I can inspire others, including my kids, to be true to themselves.
You can’t be successful by trying to sound or look like other artists. Don’t compromise your vision. There are 7.4 billion people in the world - there’s enough audience to go around. Put your real self out there and you will find and connect with your tribe. Let your freak flag fly, and people will either love you or hate you, but you won’t engender apathy. And that’s real, raw, marketing. I invite all the weirdos, perverts and freaks out there to connect with me on Facebook to watch my redemption journey, as I record my next studio album, and take one last shot at rock super-stardom.
Michal Towber is a 35 year old, suburban mother of 3 young boys under 5, who teaches voice and piano by day, and is a big, bad, leather-clad rockstar by night. She is currently recording her 10th album and taking one last shot at super stardom. She would very much like to be your own personal rockstar. You can connect with her at www.facebook.com/MichalTowber.
By Jane Davidson
In the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting in modern* US history, Americans took to social media to share the news, post their prayers, call for policy action, and respond to the comments of others. As a brand, influencer, or artist, your decision to connect with your online audience regarding this or any other tragedy is an important one, and should not be taken lightly.
We surveyed 20 American millennials from major metropolitan areas to discover their perspectives on brand and celebrity reactions to tragedy on social media, and our findings mirrored what we suspected: while they appreciate a human, caring response to a tragedy with an actionable component, a thoughtless, politically charged response can be much more memorable in a very negative way.
But what if you have good intentions and people misread your thoughts anyways? This is what really makes it a hard line to walk. Our survey group had a wide variety of responses to these two tweets we shared with them.
First, everyone's favorite social media influencer, Donald Trump! He posted this tweet shortly after the news of the shooting:
Let's start with the positives:
"currently googling 'how to move to canada'"
- Survey response to "What are your thoughts on this tweet?"
Let's move on to the next one:
At first glance, do you see problems with this tweet? Our survey respondents didn't.
"I appreciate that she used her large twitter audience to spread the word about how people can help"
- Survey responses to "What are your thoughts on this tweet?"
However, many people jumped on this tweet for being incorrect. "Mass casualties" is not the same thing as "mass shooting", so people became angry that she (inadvertently) ignored other larger tragedies like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina.
If anything, this tweet demonstrates the power of a proofread! All of the negative comments in our survey about that phrase or punctuation could have been solved quickly with a double-check of the tweet.
With these results in mind, here are some Do’s and Don’t’s of your social media response to tragedy:
DON'T try to “capitalize” on a trending tragedy
Generally, we recommend for clients to comment on trending topics in a creative, relevant way, but this is not one where you should be using the trend for personal gain.
That doesn’t mean you can’t comment on it, and it doesn’t mean you can’t use the hashtags. But it also means you shouldn’t post about it unless it’s your genuine response
DON'T make it about you
For brands, don't use your RIP post to promote your latest release or direct buyers to your online store. If your an influencer or other individual social media user, please don’t post a selfie and #RIP__ or #prayfor___. Your content and captions should match as a general rule, so even disregarding the tactless post, you're not reaching the proper audience who's looking for the content that matches the hashtag.
DON'T turn it political - unless it’s relevant to your brand.
If you’re an artist who spends much of their time fighting for causes like gun control or LGBTQ rights, then it would make sense to make a comment about those aspects of a tragedy.
But if you’re a small business that generally just posts pictures of their sandwiches, suddenly calling for mental health reform can confuse or alienate your customers.
Again, that doesn’t mean you can’t comment on the issue, but it might make more sense to post your political thoughts on your personal social media pages where your friends and contacts know you and your beliefs well rather than on your Mom & Pop shop page.
This isn’t just a political issue, it’s also a content issue. We have several social content philosophies at BEGIN, and one of the main ones is: “Calculated, Creative, Consistent, Quality Content is Key”.
When you suddenly post something politically charged out of the blue, you’re violating Key #3: Consistent. Your real audience follows you because they enjoy the type of content you put out. If you change your post-type, they won’t know what to expect from you, and are much more likely to un-follow or simply not engage with your posts.
DO be authentic.
People want to know that there's a real person behind your posts! Commenting on current events or tragedies in a human way will help you show through your brand. If you fit into a category where it would be strange to go from your content to the event’s content, don’t be afraid to still comment on other posts with your sentiments about the situation.
If you are someone who fits in the “political works for me” category, share other perspectives that resonate with you, be real and heartfelt in your sympathies, and do it because you care, not because it’s part of your social media playbook.
DO be sensitive to the situation.
Pay attention to the purpose of a hashtag! Don't blindly use one without checking what it means first. You'll end up offending your audience or worse. (And you don't want to look like an idiot...)
Also you’re not a reporter (well, you might be, in which case you probably have a better idea what to do in these situations), so don’t feel like you have to provide live updates on an emerging story.
Be VERY careful about sharing unconfirmed reports (that can hurt your followers’ trust), posting the names of criminals (remember the victims, not the perpetrators), and don’t share posts from questionable sources.
Jane Davidson is the co-founder and Director of Brand Development for BEGIN. She is passionate about using these blog posts to share her knowledge and unique perspectives on a variety of topics with a community of creative entrepreneurs.
Tweet her @janebegins
We surveyed 20 people by posting on a variety of Facebook groups. 80% of respondents are female, 90% are between 18-35, 60% of respondents are from Los Angeles, and all live in a major city.
Please note this was not intended to be a scientific survey. All responses were open-ended and anonymous.
If you'd like to view more detailed results of our survey, please contact us.
The BEGIN Blog features posts about branding, social media, entrepreneurship, and other topics relevant to young professionals.