Where should we go from here?

13th April 2013

What we planned

This post is part of an exercise to engage with our readers, friends, fans, customers … in order to find out what they value in the work that we do.  As an organisation (ArtsIn Productions) we do a lot of different things – run an arts magazine, put on training courses, represent bands, singers and rappers, provide a publicity service … the scope of our work is wide. The resources we have available however is not.

This consultation is to ask the public to share their thoughts and comments with us about what we do best.  If we should be focusing in,  then what should we concentrate on?

My concern is that we are spreading our resources too thinly across the field of our activities.  If we narrowed down we might achieve more impact.  The problem that I have, as the head honcho around here, is what?   I can see all the things that need doing.   I am well aware of all the things that I like doing. But, it’s not all about me.

What is difficult for me is letting go of some of my pet projects, my passions, my skill-areas; but that is what needs to happen.  ArtsIn Productions involves a number of people – all of them volunteers.    I am the only one that does things on a daily basis. Clearly, far too much lands on my desk and I cannot cope with all of it.

I can delegate some things,  to some people,  some of the time. The more volunteers we get, the more time it takes to train, brief and organise them all. As we say on our web site “Volunteers lie at the heart of all we do.”  Ours is a social enterprise and a constant stream of people apply to join us. That increases our capacity but only to the extent that we can train, en-skill, supervise and motivate them.

I am particularly concerned to get feedback and comment from those in the music community;  music represents the biggest part of our work. After about ten years of working with music, we feel we have made a contribution and we want to continue to do that.

Of all the things that we do for music,   what things are most valuable?   If we had to focus on one or two things that would be of real benefit to bands, singers and rappers, what should they be?

What happened

ArtsIn Productions Limited was closed down.  Having failed to achieve its goals, the company was costing me money to keep going, so I decided to close it.

Having announced that I was going to ‘retire’ in 2014, I have postponed that because I am too busy and have too much work to do.

I am keeping both web sites running Arts in Leicester and Music in Leicester.  I have taken both sites over from the company and am now the sole publisher of them both.

Narrowing down would be nice but, as with many of these things, there are inter-linkages and cross-benefits that make it impossible to remove one card from the house without the whole thing being in danger of falling down.

Comments about both of the websites are as always very welcome.

Please post your comments.

 

Branding for the smaller business

When we think about branding we tend to think this is something for really big corporations. I want to argue that branding is also important for new,  startup and smaller companies, including social enterprises.

Branding is about identity.  Using a name, logo and strap line anchors the identity of a company. It makes it more easily recognisable. Having an established brand is an asset.  The brand can be attached to a product and also to the business. A well-chosen brand encapsulates what the business is about. It is a statement about the company, the business, what it does, what it provides, how it operates. Its purpose is to make the business stand out.

Branding is about positioning the enterprise in the public’s awareness. A new company has to work hard to win its customer base and its brand identity will contribute to this. Growing businesses need to secure their share of the market and beat the competition. Again, brand image will assist with this. Once a business has built up a set of customers, it can use it branding to secure their loyalty.

There are various elements to a brand scheme:  colour, logo, imagery, wording.  A basic principle of branding is that it must be consistent. Once a brand identity is set it has to be applied in precisely the same way on everything: on paper, on labelling, on the Internet … where ever the business needs to be seen, the branding must be identical  across all media.

People who design branding think about the feeling it expresses. Colour is of  key importance to this. A lot of research has been done into the association between specific shades of a colour and emotions. Some colours are associated with trust, others with energy, some with passion. Choosing the right colour scheme for a brand requires work on the emotional response that is required.

Designing a branding scheme involves getting a very clear take on what the company wishes to say about itself.  When entrepreneurs register a company, they might not be thinking ahead to their branding identity and often end up with a company name that does not fit with the criteria of a clear brand identity. This need not matter because what is being sold is the concept, product or service that the company will trade in, irrespective of the name of the entity that is doing that.

A key part of branding is the logo – an image that symbolises the business or its products.  The style of the logo will convey something about the strength and quality of business. Getting it right is a formidable undertaking and a lot of entrepreneurs take too little time over getting this right.  In their rush to get started, they bash out something about their idea and hope for the best. When they later discover that it either does not work or is having the wrong effect, they then find they have to spend a lot of time and money trying to re-brand.

Changing a brand identity scheme can be very, very expensive.  So, getting it right to start with is well worth the investment. There are too many businesses out there that got their branding wrong and are stuck with it. It’s actually not an asset, it’s holding them back. It’s saying the wrong thing about the product or service; it’s conveying the wrong impression.

If your business provides a large range of products or services, then it is the brand that holds them together and the quality of any one product transfers to all the others through the association of the band name.  Service based businesses rely on their brand identity to underpin the trust and reliability that they want their customers to believe in and to value.

A well branded business has a higher value than one without a strong brand identity.  The brand is valuable in itself.  If a brand is well established, valued, liked and respected, then the company that owns it will be worth more.  The branding scheme should accurately and successfully convey what the business stands for – quality, reliability, trustworthiness, style, desirability – being some of the emotions that brands want to reflect. The brand might also express something about the customer, saying something about who they are or who they like to think they might be.  It’s a badge of status.

Understanding the importance of branding is not limited to purely profit-making enterprises.  It can also apply to public service organisations.  Local authorities, sections of the Civil Service, charities, NGOs … they all use branding to some extent to make an impact on their service users.

Some people who start businesses half-understand branding and think they can do it themselves. If you have the self-confidence to start a business and enter the market place, then it likely you will think that DIY branding is for you. It’s a trap many fall into. Thinking that branding is just about common sense is about as wrong as believing that your business does not need it.

If you want to make a success of your branding then at least try to research the subject thoroughly before you make a start. Or, find someone who has expertise in this area.  Being able to formulate a successful branding scheme is all about knowledge. Doing your own branding is as sensible as trying to take your own appendix out.

I am not an expert in branding but I do claim to understand the value, need for, and process of branding. In that respect I can project manage a branding exercise. I have a feel for how much to invest in it, because it is not difficult to squander resources on very expensive marketing companies.  I would not advocate bargain-basement deals but prudent and judicious selection of the right support is vital.

Investment in branding, if successful, confers a return that is well worth having.

Blogging for business

Blogging probably sparked the emergence of Web.2. It remains a popular and effective means of getting content on to the Internet. Whilst blogs can support and enrich free-standing web sites, they need not replace them.

These days we need to figure out the inter-relationship of web sites, blogs and social networking facilities. They are not mutually exclusive alternatives. They are complementary methods for enhancing the power of the Internet. If you have a web site – i.e. something you have built yourself from scratch with its own unique domain name – you can then use blogs and social networking tools to drive traffic to it.

See your web site as the end of the food chain. Twitter, Facebook, whatever else you are on, can be used to introduce readers to your web site and call them to action – to read something.

For over 12 years I have been producing free-standing web sites for small businesses and organisations. They have all met with varying degrees of success. I have built over 100 new web sites for clients. In the majority of cases, I have then left them to get on with the updates. LOL. Clients often say to me “I am so glad I now have a finished web site”.

My reply: “There is no such thing as a finished web site.”

As soon as a new web site goes live, the work really begins. Every page must be updated on a regular basis. If content is not changed the site well get nowhere.

It’s like a voice crying in the wilderness.

Since I started doing web sites in 1997, the Internet has changed enormously. We now have Web.2., a second generation of the web, in which blogs and social networking sites appears to have taken over much of what web sites used to do.

There is still a role for static web pages; that role now is to support and enhance the more interactive elements of the web, like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Linked-in and many more. There is still a need for the free-standing website but people need to figure out what that role is. I believe I have.

Originally published 7/12/2010

Change in branding

This was originally created as the blog for our web site Get Your Band On.  It has now been re-engineered to become the blog for our online magazine ArtsInLeicestershire.co.uk.

This move is part of our business plan in which we bring all our lines under one brand:  Artsin

Our previous blog for Arts in is being deleted and replaced by this blog.  Keeps everything in one place.

Posts to the old blog are being imported into this one.

Artsin is the brand name for a range of web sites and services produced by me, the centre of which is our online magazine Arts in Leicestershire.

We have accounts on several social networking sites, such as Twitter

and Myspace.   It can be seen that the Artsin logo immediately identifies these sites as relating to the band image.

These moves are in readiness for our expanded business plan for 2011.


Web sites for businesses could well become a thing of the past!

Web sites for businesses could well become a thing of the past!

I have been producing websites for small businesses since 1997. Now, it looks like they are being made redundant. This is due to the emergence of Web.2. and the rise of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Registering a domain name, designing and building a web site, organising the hosting and maintaining the content is a costly and time-consuming activity. Many people are now claiming that these ‘social networking’ sites are making small, free-standing web sites obsolete. Is this just hype?

As a big user of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and of course blogs, I have seen for myself just how valuable these utilities have been. Having used them all, I have seen a huge growth in traffic to one of the web sites I run. I wouldn’t say they have replaced the need for a web site, but they have proven to be very valuable at complementing my web site and driving traffic to it.

I have seen people using apps like WordPress and Joomla as solutions to the need for a DIY web presence, with varying degrees of success. I guess that businesses that have gone down this road have saved themselves a great deal of money.

Web design has been (and still is) a technical skill. Many people believe that they have the skills to be successful web designers but I still regularly find appallingly bad web sites. Home made web sites tend to be poorly constructed because there are so many aspects to web design you cannot learn on your own. There are many courses that teach people how to use things like ‘Dreamweaver’ but don’t teach the basic technical requirements of good website design practice.

Another thing that successful business sites need is success in the search engines. Over recent years we have seen the rapid growth of experts offering “search engine optimisation”. So, many a poor business person has spent a couple of thousand pounds or dollars or euros having a web site made, only to be presented with another bunch of bills for optimising it for Google and other search engines.

So, why didn’t the web designers build in optimisation in the first place? It stems back, in my view, to the lack of professional standards and training in the industry. Any kid can download a copy of Dreamweaver or Front Page and start making web sites. They don’t go on courses. Some might read online courses. The end result is a site that fails miserably to meet any of the design standards you might expect of professional and experienced designers.

So will we see the end of small web sites? Quite possibly. People will become more and more expert in the art of the Tweet, the craft of using Facebook and the science of blogging. These applications can work a lot faster and more effectively that the old HTML page.

Footnote: Experts are claiming that by 2012, there will be more mobile devices than PCs. More and more people will access the WWW by something other than a laptop or desk top computer. That means that we all have to re-learn what web sites are all about.

Blogging and web sites

Blogging probably sparked the emergence of Web.2. It remains a popular and effective means of getting content on the Internet. Whilst blogs can support and enrich free-standing web sites, they need not replace them, where they already exist.

Now we need to figure out the inter-relationship of free-standing web sites, blog and social networking facilities. They are not mutually exclusive alternatives. They are complementary methods for enhancing the power of the Internet.

For over 12 years I have been producing free-standing web sites for small businesses and organisations. They have all met with varying degrees of success. Since I started doing this in 1997, the Internet has changed enormously. We now have Web.2., a second generation of the Internet in which blogs and social networking sites have taken over much of what web sites used to do.

There is still a role for static web pages; that now is to support and enhance the more interactive elements of the web, like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Linked-in and many more.

I have a very large web site –  Arts in Leicestershire magazine – that is linked to a large number of social networking accounts, including the two blogs that I run. Driving visitors to this web site has been phenomenally successful, combined with a very high rate of success in coming in the top ten results for major search engines.

We could not have run a site of that size without its own domain name and hosting but neither would it have attracted such as high number of readers had we replied solely on search engine results.

Venues: friends or foes?

Venues: Friends or foes

There are many hundreds of places where bands can play. Every city, town and even small villages have venues of one sort or another. Some are permanent live music venues, with stages, sound systems and lighting.  Some are pubs that play bands maybe once a week. Some are part of big national chains and others are just owned and run by one person.

In this article we discuss some of the issues that bands have raised about the way in which they are treated by venues. We would like to hear your comments. This draft work in progress will eventually become a permanent article in the GYBO magazine (no longer available)

Why do some venues make us pay to play there?

It has long been the practice on the part of some venues to make bands play for the ‘privilege’ of performing. This is often in the form of making a band pay a deposit, which they will lose if they fail to sell enough tickets for that show.

It is often the case that a live music venue will send a band that it has booked, a batch of tickets to sell.  They might ask the band to pay for these tickets in advance. The band might be able to sell the tickets at less than their face value and pocket the difference. If the band sells above a quota of tickets the venue might give them a bonus. If it all works well and 30 to 40 people buy tickets to see that band play, both the venue and the band make money.

In cases where the show is free entry and there are no tickets to sell, the costs of putting on bands and any money paid to the band has to come from somewhere. That money might come from drinks sales. Pubs have tills and if live music brings people into the pub, they spend money at the bar. At the end of the night the pub landlord takes money out of the till to put for the PA, sound engineer, any publicity he might have done and some cash to pay the bands.  If it has worked and enough people have come in to see the band, the venue owner has achieved his objects. If not, then there is a loss. Not all venues have sufficiently good profit margins on their wet side sales to be able to afford to pay bands.

There are a few pubs where there is always an established crowd wanting to be entertained. So the pub landlord knows that on a Friday or Saturday night his pub is going to be full of customers and he can make enough money to put on a band or two to entertainment.

A more common situation is a pub that has hardly any customers on mid-week evenings and, so get people in, hires bands to play who will bring in a crowd with them. If the landlord does not want to charge on the door, he or she has to be certain that the band with come with its own crowd. The fans buy drinks and enough money is made to give something back to the band.

Even in permanent live music venues, bands have to bring people with them. It’s not common for music lovers to go out to a venue and have a night out listening to what ever band happens to be playing that night.

I have seen serious live music venues go bust and close down because bands were accepting bookings to play there and have done nothing to get fans to come with them.  Do this often enough and the venue goes broke.

I have also come across bands who can’t be bothered with all this fan stuff and expect to be provided with a stage, a cash payment and a large audience who wants to listen to the music they have composed.  Which planet do you think they are from?

There is no following in this country for unknown music. If your band is not known and is playing its own music, you have to  sell that music to people like it.

The bands that get hired and paid serious money but who are not signed and not known outside their home towns are nearly always covers or tribute bands who play stuff that people are willing to buy into because they know it.

There are plenty of Pink Floyd tribute or covers band who people pay to see. But for the Job Blogs Band, playing their own original songs, they will only get paid if they have a fan base that likes what they do.

See the broader picture on this issue:  there are probably over 75,000 bands in this country writing and playing their own music.  That is way, way over the number of live music gigs per year.

A large percentage of those bands often play for nothing, simply to get a chance to play live with some kind of audience.

Band promotion

Filed under: Band Promotions — webmaster @ 12:12 pm
It’s a shame when a good band sends us a promo pack that is complete crap. It happens a lot. Some bands are good at playing music but when it comes to producing printed, promotional stuff, they fail to do themselves justice.
Here are some horror stories about promotional packs received at the GYBO office
Blank CDs sent in without even the band name being written on the CD – so now we have a collection of blank CDs and have no idea which bands are on them.
No date on the CD to tell us when the tracks were recorded.
No song titles – so if we want to discuss a song we don’t know what it is called.
Info sheets without any contacts details on them – a two page closely typed essay about the band’s history and no contact details — not even a phone number.
Hand written letters in spidery writing which we have difficulty reading
Failure to understand the difference between a website address and an email address – email addresses beginning with www.
Band info sheets that tell us the band is based on the UK but not where exactly
Photos of the band that are so poorly reproduced you cant make out what they are
Biog sheets with masses of irrelevant information – we havn’t got time to read all these minor details and really dont need to know all that stuff anyway.
Photos with no explanatory captions, so we cant understand much about what the photo shows us.
Biog sheets that fail to explain what type of music the band plays – are they heavy metal, punk, pop rock or rootsy folk rock – it doesnt say.
Sometimes we are unsure as to why this stuff has been sent in.
Large amounts of material, CDs and even DVDs but no covering letter asking us what to do with it.
What do these guys want? Show bookings? Album promotions? Management services? A review? They forgot to say.
A one line letter or note asking “please consider this band for a show booking” or “Please write a review of our latest album” would at least tell us what they want
So if bands are sending out this stuff to venues or record labels, it is hardly surprising that they are not getting any bookings or interest back.
We now have a large collection of band press and promo packs and 100s of sampler CDs
This rather poor collection of material helps us to figure out how to make an effective pack that will actually be worth the postage and get the band results.
For tips on how to write a good pack read the comments on this blog entry.
See details of our promo pack writing service on our main web site Get Your Band On

Published: 24th October 2009

Promoting Your Band

It’s a shame when a good band sends us a promo pack that is complete crap. It happens a lot. Some bands are good at playing music but when it comes to producing printed, promotional stuff, they fail to do themselves justice.

Here are some horror stories about promotional packs received at the GYBO office.

Blank CDs sent in without even the band name being written on the CD – so now we have a collection of blank CDs and have no idea which bands are on them.

No date on the CD to tell us when the tracks were recorded.

No song titles – so if we want to discuss a song we don’t know what it is called.

Info sheets without any contacts details on them – a two page closely typed essay about the band’s history and no contact details — not even a phone number.

Hand written letters in spidery writing which we have difficulty reading

Failure to understand the difference between a website address and an email address – email addresses beginning with www.

Band info sheets that tell us the band is based on the UK but not where exactly

Photos of the band that are so poorly reproduced you cant make out what they are

Biog sheets with masses of irrelevant information – we havn’t got time to read all these minor details and really dont need to know all that stuff anyway.

Photos with no explanatory captions, so we cant understand much about what the photo shows us.

Biog sheets that fail to explain what type of music the band plays – are they heavy metal, punk, pop rock or rootsy folk rock – it doesnt say.

Sometimes we are unsure as to why this stuff has been sent in.

Large amounts of material, CDs and even DVDs but no covering letter asking us what to do with it.

What do these guys want? Show bookings? Album promotions? Management services? A review? They forgot to say.

A one line letter or note asking “please consider this band for a show booking” or “Please write a review of our latest album” would at least tell us what they want

So if bands are sending out this stuff to venues or record labels, it is hardly surprising that they are not getting any bookings or interest back.

We now have a large collection of band press and promo packs and 100s of sampler CDs

This rather poor collection of material helps us to figure out how to make an effective pack that will actually be worth the postage and get the band results.

Useful links

Band Promotion Blog – Press packs

e-How – Band Promo packs

Band Promotion Press packs

Create a promo package

Article: How to promote your band