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March Madness: SXSW of course!
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As music folks know, March means two things: the end of the first quarter and SXSW.

Section 101 was excited to make our first trip (as a company) down to Austin. The event really does get better every year and we saw some amazing shows, some terrific keynote speakers and sat through some great panels. Speaking of…

Yes, yours truly (Liz) moderated a panel on the last Saturday of SXSW. I was actually feeling pretty good about it because I suggested the topic and it was picked among many submissions. I then had to go about the task of choosing panelists to join me and that part wasn’t so easy. There are so many smart people in the industry but I really wanted an eclectic mix. After much searching, I got it. 

First, my panel: 

I felt that through my work at Section 101 I’d identified a true call within the artistic community for a better handle on digital assets. Thus Getting A Digital Ass Kicking? was born. My pitch? Is the web dominating you, or are you dominating the web? Be the master of your domain! All musical artists must face the daunting task of determining where, when and how to make their home on the web. As the various number of tech tools and social networks increases, so does the level of complexity in making this important decision. Here, you will learn the do's and don'ts of the digital arena as an artist, as well as the top 10 practices you can adopt to build, manage, and accelerate your digital presence!

Second, the panelists:

Jaison John: Director of Touring & Marketing at 5B Artist Management, where he has been instrumental in developing the online brands for 5B's entire roster including Slipknot, Wolfmother, and Stone Sour. Throughout his career, he's been responsible for the development of a number of artist official sites as well as their paid fan communities.

Steve Yegelwel: President of S-Curve Records, the record label that launched the career of Joss Stone and brought the world such hits as “Stacy’s Mom” and “Who Let the Dogs Out.”  S-Curve has released many successful records by alternative pop/rock band including We The Kings, critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Diane Birch, teen punk rock trio Care Bears On Fire, power pop supergroup Tinted Windows and music icon Tom Jones. 

Greg Cargill: Co-founder of Big Method a firm that introduces creative ways to connect brands with their audience on the social web.  They work with clients across industries including Harley Davidson, Virgin, Bill Cosby, Paramount, Universal and Echo and the Bunnymen.  Throughout Greg’s career he has been focused on developing awareness for celebrities, brands, and products through the Internet.   

Suzanne Vega: Artist who is widely regarded as one of the most brilliant singer/songwriters of her generation.  Since her debut 25 years ago she has sold over 7 million albums and has been nominated for 7 Grammy awards. Suzanne was the first artist on the main stage at the very first Lilith Fair. Her voice and song “Tom’s Diner” was used in the refinement of the MP3, earning her the nickname “The Mother of the MP3.” Suzanne was also the first major label artist to perform a concert on Second Life in the form of an avatar. She has recently launched her own record label and partnered with Barnes and Noble for a physical and online distribution deal.

And me: I have been in interactive marketing for the past 15 with a focus on Music Marketing for the past 8 years.  My company, Section 101, has launched a new platform that marries Artists’ website development with digital tools and social networks, making it easier for people like you to succeed.

Third, What did we learn?

A lot. As I mentioned, I was striving for a diverse group and I got it. Each member of the panel was able to add something relevant to the discussion and bring forth a unique way of looking at the different challenges artists face. 

As mentioned in the panel description, we also wanted to present ways emerging artists could enhance their digital presence. Not only did I want the panel to be a forum for discussion, I really wanted the audience to leave the convention feeling empowered and ready to rock their site(s). I think we achieved both goals.

Our Top Ten Practices to Help Accelerate Your Digital Presence:

ONE) Own your own URL. Once you decide on an artist name, even if it’s your own first and last name, grab that MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Twitter page.

TWO) Keep the content up-to-date and relevant. Make sure your updates go to each one of your digital channels, but engage with fans for each specific portal: Suzanne Vega asks fans to tweet song requests during the intermission of her shows.

THREE) Find your voice. No matter what you might hope for, your true self will comes across via how you present yourself. An audience can detect BS a mile away. Be true to yourself. If Twitter isn’t your thing but blogging is, do that. In other words, don’t waste time with what you’re not good at.

FOUR) Emerging artists should make sure that what they do digitally, they do really well. The entire panel agreed that labels, booking agents, publicists and manager all look at an artist’s digital assets. If you aren’t willing to invest in those things, how can a music influencer want to invest in you? Make sure everything looks really good.

FIVE) Contesting is a terrific way to build an audience and a mailing list, but make sure the contest makes sense for your audience. Steve mentioned that he was involved in an online giveaway for an iPod – everyone signed up, but all they were interested in was the iPod, not the content on the site. S-Curve (and Section 101!) artist Diane Birch takes a Polaroid every night from the stage, posts it, and encourages fans to post their photos of her. She picks her favorite and sends something signed or gives the winner tickets to another show.

SIX) Focus on getting the word out about your music in order to increase your audience. Social Networks give you instant feedback about what is and isn’t working, which is actually a blessing. If something doesn’t fly, move on.

SEVEN) Don’t use your digital assets to just promote-promote-promote. You will lose your audience that way. You need to engage them and give them something (music, thoughts, musings) for investing in you. 

EIGHT) Don’t be afraid to try different things and make some mistakes. Just be mindful of what you write (“oh man, spent the whole morning puking from all those jagerbombs. The whole apartment smells like barf!”) could not only come back to haunt you, but set a tone you didn’t mean to set.

NINE) Make sure you keep your eye out for what’s next. For instance, localization is big right now - micro social networks where people create communities while finding their friends. Make sure you stay on top of what the next big thing is so you can be ahead of the curve. 

TEN) Less is more, quality over quantity. As Jaison told the panel, K.I.S.S – Keep It Simple Stupid. Don’t over think things, get out the basic messaging and make sure it’s all about the music. You’re not re-inventing the wheel, so if you see a band you like, who has the audience you want to attract, copy them. 

BONUS) Believe in yourself. If you don’t, no one else will either!