Industry Insider: Chip Schutzman

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FIG. 1: Chip Schutzman specializes in Internet-based marketing.

With all the media attention given to file sharing and the travails of the major labels, the Internet's role in the distribution and sale of music has been highly visible in recent years. But what's been left out of the conversation — something that's equally if not more important for independent musicians — is the use of the Net for marketing and promotion. Chip Schutzman (see Fig. 1) is the president of Miles High Productions, an L.A.-based Internet marketing firm, and has a great deal of expertise on the subject of promoting indie musicians on the Web.

Chip, why don't you start by telling the readers what your company does.

Miles High Productions is an online marketing and promotions company for music artists and brands. We work with hundreds of artists — both independent and established — in all popular music genres and from all walks of life. I started the company in late 2002 and early 2003 after observing that so many record labels at that time were downsizing their staffs. I thought it would be a good idea to support both major and independent labels with cost-effective online marketing services to supplement their marketing endeavors.

How would you describe viral marketing and how it developed?

Viral marketing is the [Internet] equivalent of word of mouth, and it developed in community forums and chat rooms whenever someone mentioned, rated, or gave an opinion about a product and was reinforced by others.

Was there a groundbreaking viral campaign — maybe a key artist or recording project — that sparked the viral/Internet marketing revolution?

I'm sure there are many, but Phish and Dave Matthews Band are two bands that come immediately to mind, primarily due to the timing of the Internet boom and the popularity these two bands had around 1998, when fan communities were emerging online. Pearl Jam's 10 Club is another example of loyalty and a brilliantly executed and operational fan club.

What are the most important elements in an online marketing campaign?

Each artist and each online marketing company have different opinions of what the key elements are. The Miles High Productions method is to ensure that all our artists have press coverage in Webzines, online and satellite radio stations, online press wires by way of press release and early prerelease buzz on tastemaker blogging sites, and with Podcasters worldwide. Another large percentage of concentration we handle for the artist is our social-network marketing program; keeping the social sites updated on an ongoing basis as opposed to solely for the term of the online marketing campaign.

Are there basics that every artist and label has to take care of at a minimum?

By all means, yes. The more content an artist, manager, or label can contribute to their fan base online, the more traffic and return visits will occur to create a stronger loyal fan base. Song descriptions, blogs, new photos, and keeping social-networking sites refreshed all help. Artists and labels should ensure that any releases of music have been entered into the music databases (Muze/All Music Guide) and to all digital retailers on their distribution partners list.

Becoming known to a lot of people is one thing, but making money is quite another. Are there basic strategies musicians should employ to get people to hit the buy button?

Every artist should have two elements on the front page of the site: (1) an email opt-in sign-up list for future news, updates, tour date announcements, and any other news the artist wishes to promote, and (2) some form of promotional advertisement on the front page of the current product or item the artist is promoting (usually tour date links or merchandise or CD links to their online store). If the fan enjoys it, they will buy it and support the artist, in most cases.

Is there a way for artists to incorporate special products, prizes, giveaways, and contests into their promotional efforts? Have you seen specific effective uses of these methods that independent artists have used to develop their audience?

Lately I have seen artists offering a free download in exchange for signing up on their mailing list, which I feel is a great way to build up their potential consumer base over the course of their career and develop an initial relationship with the potential fan or consumer. This is cost-effective and efficient to set up as opposed to finding a sponsor for a grand prize giveaway.

When developing an online marketing and audience relationship strategy, it seems that the long-term approach of getting a potential audience to receive multiple impressions to attract them to your home page followed by getting them to return to that page is the key. Do you have advice on how to do that?

My position is that content is key. So is the interactivity the artist will have when connecting to their fans. The more photos, songs on social-network-site playlists, artist blog updates, and news that can be dispersed and updated to these pages, the more fans will revisit the page to look at new content and/or hear new songs and provide feedback to the artist.

How far in advance should an independent artist be planning their Web site and online campaign?

I always advise independent artists who are doing marketing on their own to first and foremost create a marketing plan and start working on their sites anywhere from 3 to 12 months in advance of a CD release date. For online marketing and online presence, an artist should start reaching out to bloggers and Podcasters approximately six to eight weeks in advance of the CD, while mailing out press kits to media about three to four months in advance of a CD release date.

The YouTube video is now being tossed around by industry people as the new introduction point for an emerging artist, much like the radio single was in the past.

Videos in general are becoming increasingly more popular with music fans wanting to find new music on the Web, as there is a visual element attached to the music which can help drive interest towards a particular song or artist. Viral marketing by using the YouTube embedded links has become popular on music blogs and personal music fan pages, and they help attract new audiences. Nowadays videos are much less expensive to produce due to lower-quality standards for Internet use and artists [see “You Ought to Be in Pictures.” href=""]

Michael A. Aczon is a 25-year veteran of the music industry, teaches music-industry courses at two colleges in California, and is the author of The Musician's Legal Companion, 2nd ed. (Cengage Publishing, 2008).