Personally, I Don’t Care If There Is Another MySpace.
This is part two of my interview with Robin Davey. He is a musician, director, and producer. His bands include The Hoax and most recently the eclectic pop duo The Bastard Fairies. Davey has directed music videos and an award-winning documentary. In this interview he talks about how focusing on core fans grew his audience and why he thinks MySpace is in terminal decline.
Hypebot: In your initial e-mail, you stated, "bands should see the music industry as small town center and their band like a boutique shop."
Please expand on that thought.
Robin Davey: If you look at the big business success stories of recent years, YouTube, Facebook, etc., they started as an idea that could function on a small level and they grew because they were great ideas. I have seen firsthand so many well-established people try to emulate those successes by using big dollars to launch something on a big scale. They aim to be the next Google but never give it the chance to grow in a more modest environment. They fail every time. The immediate returns needed to make the venture a success just can't be generated and when the accountants see the figures going in and going out, they pull the plug. Artists do the same; everything is based on being a superstar and selling a million records.
They are thinking Hollywood when they should be thinking Hollyoaks (it's a small town in England). If you treat your online store as a boutique and build a strategy that is based on achieving the first 100 sales, then when you obtain that you should have in place the strategy to take those earnings and achieve 1,000 sales and so on. If you are selling 1,000 units with every release you are in an amazing position, generating around 10,000 dollars, this is another reason why we as artists should look at the new industry with great enthusiasm. In my career, I have been signed to Interscope, Atlantic, Warner, and East West and sold many times that amount, but my royalty checks always had a minus sign in front of them. The idea that we can earn $10,000 from 1000 sales and be paid immediately is pretty great.
Hypebot: How has focusing on your core fans grown your audience?
Robin Davey: Well, we like to put creative content out there and let that do the work to bring in new fans, our videos on YouTube have had millions of hits, when you get to that figure you tend to generate thousands of plays per week by doing nothing. It's a nice luxury to now have but to get to that point we worked hard on creating viral videos that grew organically. Our biggest one being one called The Coolest 8 Year Old, it upset Bill O'Reilly so much he put it on his show and called us deeply disturbed. That really showed us that by putting the time into creativity and thinking outside the norm can really pay off. This was back in 2006 again before bands were really utilizing the viral video and YouTube as a legitimate marketing tool.
Focusing on our core fans helps us grow by creating loyalty, they then become more likely to invest in the product we put out, but also spread our name about by word of mouth. We never partook in the tweet or like for tracks. To me it's pointless; it's just spam by another name and reflects negatively on you, which was a big factor in the downfall of MySpace. What you should be aiming for is to create something that means so much to your fan that they want to tweet it. The days of creating a facade of how big you are, like buying plays or fans are thankfully behind us. The record companies are no longer interested and the only person you are fooling is yourself.
Hypebot: Why is MySpace declining and will there be another site like it?
Robin Davey: I think YouTube is becoming people's number one choice for discovering music. You get a more complete idea about a band from that, see a video, live performance, maybe an interview too. MySpace offered too much, tried to do everything, now it's regressing to just a music discovery site but it's just too late. It long lost its cool and it didn't do itself any favors by relaunching itself over and over, it just became a joke. Will there be another site like it? Personally I don't care; I've learnt that success via those outlets is so fleeting that you need to become your own entity to build a meaningful career.
Hypebot: File-sharing is often a scapegoat for the failure of an artist. You told me that lots of bands blame their failure on everything but themselves.
Why is that the most damaging and non-constructive thing they can do?
Robin Davey: I know I am supposed to pretend I am still 23 but I just turned 35. I started playing in my first band when I was 14 and was gigging so much by the time I was 15 that I couldn't get up in the morning for school so I left. I have no qualifications and no degree, but I do have 20 years experience in this business. I was born in the UK but now live in Los Angeles; this means if I don't work, I am not entitled to claim unemployment. This has forced me to be nothing other than realistic about my career. I have to say the one core thing I have learned that keeps me going and continuing to build a career in music is this - every record or band that I have been involved with has only got as big as it should have got.
If it wasn't a success, it just wasn't good enough and that is no one's fault other than my own. I believe every artist should adopt this policy. I hear artists blaming their inability to become famous on everything from file sharing to Justin Beibers success, or from the lack of peoples intelligence or to the fact that it rained. It's none of these things; it's just that what you did wasn't good enough yet. That's why you keep going because you have no choice other than to make the next thing better and bigger than before.
20 years ago my first band called The Hoax played a show in front of 3 men and a dog in the west of England, 2 of the people were facing the bar eating Chinese food (it's completely true). We went back a month later and played to 30 people, the following month 60 people turned up. Last year we did a reunion tour, we played at the prestigious Belgium Rhythm and Blues Festival in Peer, Belgium. We drew the biggest crowd of the day and the legendary Dr. John played before us. Van Morrison actually insisted on having us moved from playing before him because he was scared of following us. It only took 20 years to achieve that notoriety. Imagine if we had blamed the three men and a dog for the lack of our success rather than take that a sign that we simply need to be better and work harder.
Image Credit: Guardian