Debbie and Friends is hard at work on our new DVD to be released on March 29, 2011.

On December 18, we performed a live action concert shoot for the DVD at Berklee’s CAFE 939 with 100 of our fan families. The following is a fun “Outtakes Video” featuring some special moments from that day.

The families that were part of the shoot are thrilled to be part of our new release, and I couldn’t be happier to have them included. Making your fans part of your products is just another level of fan engagement. Do you have examples of engaging your fan in this way? Please post your stories and ideas.

The Show Must Go On!

Jul 01 2010
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Performers! Have you ever found yourself in a position where you thought perhaps that show was not going to go on? I experienced this for the first time last week, just minutes before a Debbie & Friends concert for 200 families with young children in the Greater Boston area.

The band and I were set up and ready to perform as a major thunderstorm rolled through the area. Minutes before the downbeat, two telephone poles in front of the building were struck by lightning and fell over. As the families started to arrive, we heard a loud “POP” and the power went out in the entire neighborhood! The theater became dark and the sound system was down for the count.

The event coordinators talked of rescheduling, but as each minute passed more and more families arrived. We knew we had to figure something out. We couldn’t disappoint all of those kids. (Many our devoted fans wearing their Debbie & Friends concert t-shirts!)

Thankfully, we found a large classroom in the building with a piano and some natural light. Our guitarist grabbed his acoustic, and we all squeezed into the classroom together for a fun (and sweaty) sing along. We all had a great time and the families were most appreciative.

I related this story to my good friend and colleague Jonathan Feist, and he shared a simiar experience:

I was once at a wedding where they lost power, but the band was ready with a whole set of unplugged songs, including some accompanied by just clapping along, with no instruments. It was great. They were total pros.

Do you have a story related to this as a performer or concert goer? What are some things bands should do to make sure “the show will go on” when lightning strikes, or some other unforeseen circumstance gets in the way?

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.

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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.

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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!

It’s an exciting time to be a musician. There are so many new channels of distribution, new formats, and new delivery options that can help you expose your music to potential fans. I have found animated music videos to be an excellent platform for reaching new fans and reconnecting with existing ones.

The three main ingredients needed to produce an animated music video are:

1. A fully produced song that lends itself to visual representation. Although the example that follows is for children/family music, animation can work for any genre or age demographic.

2. A graphic designer to create compelling characters and imagery.

3. An animator who can storyboard the project and create the animation.

The entire process can take 6 to 12 weeks.

Start with a Song
All Debbie and Friends’ animated music videos are based on the original songs that we perform from our CD, Story Songs and Sing Alongs. The final mastered version of the song is used for preproduction planning purposes only. The audio mix is somewhat different in the animated feature to best support the visuals.

Our most recent animated music video was based on our “Jack and the Beanstalk” story song.

Jack and the Beanstalk by DebbieandFriends

Main Character Design
A creative brief is sent to the designer, Robert Heath at Barkley Studios who designs the main characters and elements of the story.

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“Jack and the Beanstalk” main characters by Rob Heath.

Backgrounds and Scenes
Next, the designers and animators at Planet Sunday create backgrounds and scenes to support the characters and the overall storyline.

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Jack and the cow.
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The Giant taking a nap.

Storyboard Sketch
Once the characters and background scenes are developed, a storyboard movie is created putting rough action sketches to music. We typically do two or three iterations of the storyboard movie before locking it down and going into production on the final movie.

“Easter Eggs”
Al Hirschfeld, the visual artist best known for his cartoon-like line renditions of musicians and actors, always hid his daughter’s name “Nina” in his artwork. Along this line, all Debbie and Friends’ music videos have a “Spider” that drops down and makes a brief cameo at some point during our cartoons. It’s become a fun activity for our fan families to “find the spider” and write to tell me where it is. This is another example of how the music videos help us stay connected with our fans.

Final Movie
The finished movie is uploaded to our You Tube channel and related children’s music video sites such as jitterbug.tv and totlol.com. They are promoted to our fan families via our Debbie and Friends email newsletter, Facebook posts, and blog posts, etc.

The animated music video becomes a viral marketing tool as our fan families share the links and embed codes with their friends. The videos have proven to be great market research tools as well. We are receiving lots of requests to turn the music videos into a DVD product that can be played at home or in the car. Individual music video downloads can be made available to purchase as well. And, the animated music videos can serve as licensing vehicles for film and TV placements.

Indeed, it’s an exciting time to be a musician!

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.