Today more than ever, video is an essential way to break through the noise and reach new fans with your music. For Debbie and Friends, cartoon music videos are a great vehicle for this.

I’m always pleasantly surprised to learn that families from all over the world discover Debbie and Friends music every day through our YouTube channel and various cable outlets.

Many of our songs are based on classic tales, and therefore well suited for visual presentation. Some of our songs, however, are not based on stories and I was always convinced those songs were not good candidates for video. “Wendell,” for example, is a cumulative movement song about a boy who finds a toy Robot. The Robot adds a new physical challenge with each verse. It’s fun, but I couldn’t imagine it as a video. My amazing animator, Goichi Hirata from Planet Sunday, had another idea. He suggested that we approach it differently than the others and tell the story from the perspective of Wendell’s imagination. For children, the Robot can represent hope and a doorway to, literally and figuratively, scaling walls and overcoming life’s obstacles. Needless to say, I was thrilled with Goichi’s idea and excited to move forward with the project!

To further fan engagement and help with some decisions about the piece, we even hosted a “pick Wendell’s hair color” poll on Facebook. (Purple won) Here are some initial images Goichi designed for the cartoon.

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Wendell finds the Toy Robot.
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Wendell and the Robot flying.
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Wendell and the Robot at the Toy Fair parade.

And, here’s the storyboard version of the animation.

The “Wendell” cartoon music video will be finished in June. I feel so fortunate to be able to work with such talented and creative people as Goichi Hirata and Greg David at Planet Sunday.

How have you used video to expand the reach of your music-related projects?

Digging into Topspin

Feb 21 2010

It’s true that in addition to being the dean of continuing education at Berklee, I am also a student. I learn so much from our Berkleemusic students, instructors, and staff on a daily basis.

Just last month, we launched a brand new online course by Michael King entitled Online Music Marketing with Topspin. It’s a brilliant combination of cutting edge, best practices in online marketing wrapped around the new direct-to-fan sales and marketing platform, Topspin.

The course is extremely popular and by the tweets and blog posts of our current students, it’s a hit! For me, the course and the Topspin platform provide practical tools that I’ve been able to use immediately with my own kids/family music project, Debbie and Friends. With very little effort, I’ve created streaming audio and video widgets, as well as “email for media” widgets, like the one shown below.

When logged in, my Topspin account shows me all of the additional “shares” this widget has and the number of hits it’s getting in each location. The email for media widgets are so effective, in fact, that my email list is growing in a way that only used to happen at shows. It’s very exciting to see how well it all works, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this platform can do!

The Topspin account interface is easy to get around and the tools provided are extremely practical and useful for today’s aspiring musician (author, etc.). Next month, when it’s time to release our new CD, I’ll begin digging into the sales functionality of the Topspin application and will have more to report. In the meantime, what has your experience been with Topspin so far?

You outta be in pictures! In fact, as a performing musician in today’s self-promoting, DIY world, every one of your shows should be photographed and everyone who is there supporting your music should be included. Take pictures of your fans having a great time at your show. You should also have pictures taken of the band performing, the crowd interacting, the sound man, the club manager, the show poster on the door, the waitresses… everyone! (Of course, if you do children’s music, it’s important to secure the proper permissions before taking pictures of your audience.) Then, immediately after each show, follow up with everyone who was there using the pictures from the gig for viral marketing!

There are several web-based applications, such as Flickr, that will provide storage for your images online, and easy-to-use tools that enable you to share your memories with fans through your email newsletters, and Web sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Reverbnation, and your band’s own Web site.

Before you know it, your fans will link to the images from within their own personal blogs and social networking sites, and your gig pictures will quickly become viral marketing vehicles, making more and more people aware of your music!

With Flickr, you can upload pictures, add descriptions, links, and keyword tags, and then organize them into “Sets.” Here’s a link to my gig Sets on Flickr. A screen capture of my gig Sets page is presented below. Notice, each Set is focused on a particular show.

Picture 10

Each thumbnail image above leads to a Flickr Set page. Here is a link to a Set of pictures from a recent Debbie and Friends gig at the Cape Playhouse in Dennis, MA. The Set contains 17 pictures. Interesting to note that even though I only sent the link to a handful of people, the gig Set has been viewed 290 times on Flickr as of this article’s writing. The hits came from link-sharing and viral marketing efforts by a few fans. Nice!

You can add descriptions and thank you messages to the fans as a way to personalize your gig picture Sets, along with a link to drive traffic to your band’s site, after the images have been enjoyed. See an example of this below.

Picture 9

Here’s a quick, step-by-step list on how to get started using Flickr for your band’s gig memories.

1. Create a Flickr account. There are free- and fee-based versions available, depending on your needs. You will also need a Yahoo email account to create a Flickr account.
2. Log into your account.
3. Upload pictures.
4. Edit your pictures with comments and tags.
5. Organize your pictures into sets.
6. Spread the word: embed the set page link into your email newsletter and on your Web site(s).

There are many more features to explore on Flickr. To learn more, take the tour at http://www.flickr.com/tour

Sharing pictures after a gig is a great way to help build community with your fans and provide tools that enable them to share their excitement about your music with others.

You really outta be in pictures!


Community!
Whether online or off, we all want to be part of one.

Berkleemusic’s continuing education students tell us that a sense of community is one of the most important parts of their online educational experience. Throughout a 12-week semester online, students network and study with classmates from all over the world. The course community helps students form lasting connections that live beyond the semester and into their professional lives.

Picture 2

We have a number of tools, both asynchronous and real-time, available to students to foster communication and collaboration in any given Berkleemusic courses. They are a:

Discussion Board

– A “meet and greet” at the beginning of a course
– Lesson-specific questions presented by the instructor
– Student-generated questions or ideas
– Assignment feedback: instructors and classmates review and critique lesson assignments each week.

Chat Tool

The chat tool is used for a weekly office hour also known as a class meeting. The students and instructor spend an hour chatting about the lesson of the week. Sometimes, an instructor will invite a guest artist or industry luminary in to participate in the chat.

In addition to the discussion boards and chat tool, there are instructor announcements, private messaging for confidential exchanges, and even email to help to keep the communication flowing and the course community collaborative.

How important is a sense of community to you in your online education? What are some of the ways that help you feel part of an online course community? What’s lacking? What kind of tools or interactions would you like to see?

I look forward to your responses!

Roger H. Brown, President of Berklee College of Music, shares his thoughts on the importance of music for child development, cultural awareness, communication, and family connections.

A “must” read!

Oct 18 2008
mavericks
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

Mavericks at Work is a wonderful collection of case studies showing innovation, originality, and creativity in education and in the workplace. A must read for artists, music educators, and business professionals alike.

A “must” read!

Oct 18 2008
mavericks
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

Mavericks at Work is a wonderful collection of case studies showing innovation, originality, and creativity in education and in the workplace. A must read for artists, music educators, and business professionals alike.

You landed the gig!

In order for your show to be a huge success, there is a lot of work to do be done. Whether you play in a steady band or have a roster of musicians you call upon for different types of shows, the logistics and communication needed to pull it all together can be immense. The band leader in charge of making it all happen has to communicate with the players, the sound/light people, the booking agent, the club manager, the promoter, media contacts, fans, street team, etc.

If you are in charge of organizing your band’s gigs, Basecamp is about to make your job a lot easier. I call it “gig management software” because it works so well in that capacity. But really, Basecamp is a web-based project management application useful for all kinds of projects from shopping lists and vacation planning, to Web development, and the planning of a new business. Personally, I have found Basecamp to be the perfect solution for managing the logistics and communication for my growing list of Debbie and Friends gigs. Basecamp has made my gig management responsibilities so efficient that I wanted to share my experience with other musicians.

Basecamp provides a platform for communication. You can share everything anyone needs to know about an upcoming gig within the program including rehearsals, set up and sound check, directions, parking, load-in, stage plot, set list, dress, promotion, email campaigns, travel arrangements, guest lists, CD and merch sales, and more. Before discovering Basecamp, I used to manage these elements via email and phone. I found myself sending and resending the same information to the various parties involved in the gig right up to the day of the show. It was an unwieldy amount of information that inevitably led to miscommunication and a lot of extra work for everyone involved. As my gig calendar began to grow, and the logistics became more intense, it became clear that I needed a Web-based solution. Basecamp does all that I hoped for and more.

The best way to see all that Basecamp can do is to view their audio/video tour.
While it’s true that you can do the same kind of project management with Wikis, Google Apps shared documents, and other web-based applications, I personally like the turn-key, templated approach in Basecamp. And, my band members are very happy with the adoption of this program. It truly makes gig management, communication, and planning much easier for everyone.

In a word, Basecamp completely rocks! For more information on how to use Basecamp for gigs, click here.

In fact, as a performing musician in today’s self-promoting, DIY world, every one of your shows should be photographed and everyone who is there supporting your music should be included. Take pictures of your fans having a great time at your show, the band performing, the soundman, the club manager… EVERYONE! Then, use your concert pictures as a viral marketing tool!

There are several web-based applications, such as flickr, that will provide storage for your images online, and easy-to-use tools that enable you to share your memories with fans through your email newsletters and Web sites.

Before you know it, your fans will link to the images from within their own blogs and social networking sites, and your gig pictures will quickly become viral marketing vehicles, making more and more people aware of your music!!

Here is an example of a set of pictures from a recent “Debbie and Friends” show. Interesting to note that even though I sent the Flickr link to only a handful of people, the page has been viewed 130 times on flickr as of this post’s writing. The hits came from link-sharing and viral marketing efforts by a few enthusiastic fans.

Sharing pictures after a gig is a great way to help build community with your fans and provide tools that enable them to share their excitement about your music with others.

You really outta be in pictures! More information can be found here.

Just Six Songs

Aug 17 2008

The World in Six Songs by Daniel J. Levitin: Book Cover

Daniel Levitin, author of “This is Your Brain on Music” has a new book entitled “The World in Six Songs.” In it, he says there are just six types of song in all music throughout the ages, and they help tell a story of music and human evolution.

Those six types are:

– Friendship/Social bonding
– Joy
– Comfort
– Knowledge
– Religion
– Love

To hear more about his findings, including some interesting studies on the body’s chemical reaction to music, listen to this ON POINT interview on NPR online. In it, Daniel Levitin shares findings about music and the brain.