Happy Friday! To cap off the last Friday in February, we’re serving up another round-up of TuneCore Artist videos for your enjoyment! Watch ’em on the job, watch ’em at home, just…refrain from watching ’em while driving.
Welcome to the latest installment of our “Getting Social” Series, wherein we showcase TuneCore Artists and music marketing pros who offer insight on social strategy for independents. Because after all, there’s more to social media than sharing tour dates and funny pictures!
Today we’re sharing an interview with indie MC Astronautalis (AKA Andy Bothwell). Hailing from Minneapolis, Astronautalis has been releasing albums since 2003, blending hip hop with elements of indie rock and electronic music, (among other genres). His songwriting is a force to be reckoned with – no obscure subject is off limits, and few MCs possess the topic bank and flow to make things your high school history teacher forgot about captivate an audience. Astronautalis has built his fan base in sync with the progression of social media in mainstream culture, and was named a top Instagram follow by Pigeons and Planes. We discuss his interest in photography, using social to promote new releases and more below:
You recently released The Very Unfortunate Affairs of Mary & Earl – tell us about this ‘historical fiction’ album and how your fans have been reacting to it.
Astronautalis: Technically, it is a re-release of a very old EP I made for a vinyl only release on a small label in Germany several years ago. It was my first foray into working “historical-fiction” into rap music, and based on the rather star-crossed love affair between Mary Queen of Scots and James Hepburn, the Fourth Earl of Bothwell, Scotland. Hepburn is actually a VERY distant relative, and the story, (which involves murder, kidnapping, black magic, and more), has always been a point of great fascination for me. The process of writing creatively from history was such a thrill for me on this project, it became a bit of a hallmark for my next two full-length records.
Has the amount of time you dedicate to social media changed as your fan base has grown?
Yes, several times, actually. Initially, back in the MySpace era, I used social media to book tours, talk to the few fans I had, and lay the meager little foundation that I would later build my career upon. MySpace messages made things a lot more long form then they are now in the world of Twitter and communicating through the comments section. Back then, I wrote back EVERYONE who wrote me, in a true and full response. Even with my small fan base, it became quite the undertaking, and as things expanded, I found that I didn’t have the time to write so extensively to fans.
Twitter couldn’t have come along at a better time. It was quite the revolution to be able to communicate with anyone and everyone, but within the inherent limitations of the format it became less like letter writing, and more like text messaging, and thusly, more manageable. Lately, I find myself focusing less on Twitter, and even less on Facebook still. They are still both important tools for my business, but I get little reward from them personally. And while I am still engaging with fans on both sites, and using both as business tools, the only social media I engage in with any great passion is Instagram. I, personally, find it much more rewarding to scroll through an endless stream of beautiful photos, as opposed to people being outraged over Beyonce’s Grammy snub, you know?
Do you feel your fan base is one that is very plugged in?
Certainly! Isn’t everyone of a certain age, or younger? I think people are so plugged in at this point, they do not have an understanding of what it means to be NOT plugged in, you know? When the revolution in the Ukraine started last year, it was insane to be able to not just talk directly to people who were on the ground in Kiev, but people who knew my music? Everything about that is so bizarre to me. The reach of all things in the modern age, even weirdo rap music, is nothing short of mind blowing.
What do you like (and/or dislike?) about the process of building excitement and dropping a new release on social?
The things I dislike about the process are really only the things I dislike about social media in general, and the level of laziness it fosters in people at times. People using social media to ask questions that could be solved with a short Google search, and what not. (Which is pretty much the main annoyance faced by any artist who is really connected and involved with their social media).
Aside from sometimes feeling like a butler, pretty much every other aspect of releasing and promoting through social media is fantastic! Working on a record is arduous and exhausting work; totally mentally and emotionally draining. You spend the better part of the entire process second-guessing everything from your lyrics to your album art, to your choice to start rapping when you were 12. When the album comes out, your social media is the thing that builds you back up. It is like having every person, from every show you are about to play, all in one room at once, cheering you on; and you would have to be a total asshole to not love and appreciate that support/ego stroking.
Between Facebook and Twitter, you boast over 69K followers/fans – which of these two comes most into play during a touring stretch?
Facebook has become all about business for me at this point. I use it to post the brass tacks about shows and tours and releases, especially on and around said tours and releases. Twitter really gets the most use in my life once I hit the road, partially because it becomes a great way to interact with folks before, during, and after shows. Also there is A LOT of time to kill on those van rides, and once you have run out of podcasts and you can’t play Mario Kart anymore, Twitter is always there for you with some excellent diversion.
Similarly, how do you feel you interact with your fans differently in general when it comes to those two channels?
As I said above, Facebook is become so about business and promotion, with little personal flair, that most of the fan interaction has turned that way as well. Even though it is host to my largest number of followers, I found pretty early on that people don’t like it when you use the Facebook page like Twitter. They get annoyed if you post a lot through the Facebook page. So, I try to keep it short, sweet, and down to business. As a result, much of the folks writing me on Facebook keep to that tone as well, (i.e. asking for show/tour details). On Twitter is where the interaction becomes much more personal, and I’ll find myself discussing everything from sports, to rap, to Target’s line of “50 Shades of Grey” sex toys. Facebook is where you go for stuff about “Astronautalis”. Twitter is where you go to talk to Andy, if that makes sense?
You were named one of the top 25 indie artists to follow on Instagram – and for a good reason. Has photography/visual art always been an interest of yours?
My mother was a photographer and a photography teacher, so I grew up in a dark room. And while I have always owned cameras, and taken photos, for me, it was always a hobby. Honestly, till Instagram.
Where/when do you find yourself getting inspired to share photos most often? Or do you feel it’s more of a random happening?
One of the reasons I have latched onto Instagram was the creativity it fosters IN me. While it is a great creative outlet, and a nice distraction from music for me, the thing I enjoy the most is having an endless stream of great photos to look through all day. Seeing the world though all of those people’s eyes has pushed me to see photos everywhere and made me think more like a photographer. While the most popular photos I post are certainly the ones taken on tour in exotic locales, showing things most people have never seen, some of my favorites are the ones I take just strolling through my neighborhood in Minneapolis.
What tips do you have for an independent artist who’s trying to tighten their Instagram game up?
I think it starts with what is in your feed. If you just follow your friends posting pictures of themselves at parties, or shots of food they eat, chances are that is what your feed will end up looking like as well. Think of Instagram differently then other social media. Use Twitter and Facebook for socializing, but use Instagram for inspiration. If you follow great photographers, you’ll start thinking more like a photographer, just by osmosis. But, take it from me, when you start unfollowing your friends because their pictures suck…you better think of a nice way to explain it to them. People take this stuff SERIOUS!
Your career has really progressed almost parallel to that of social media’s presence in mainstream culture. Do you feel this gave you a leg up in terms of how you engage fans now?
I think so. For myself, and a lot of artists who adopted social media early, we were already sharp on a lot of the ins and outs, while most of the big guys and major label artists were still scrambling to figure out what the hell a tweet was, you know? Social media is not the real world: there is a whole different set of social morals to live by online, and a lot of which are still being written. I think the early adopters have proven to be more nimble in adapting to change, and more innovative when it came to making change in how this relatively new set of tools can be used.
What newer opportunities do you see for independents in hip hop when it comes to marketing their music online?
Rap music is going through a really exciting stratification right now. Rap has replaced rock as the language of pop music, and as you see rap coming out of all these strange places and faces, it is producing an infinite amount of sub-genres within the framework of “rap”. From a creative standpoint, I think this is astoundingly exciting. Thankfully, we live in a technological environment that allows artists to use the pinpoint marketing power of social media to find fans for their version of rap, no matter what obscure sub-genre of a sub-genre they occupy. And as the technology grows and improves, our power in that realm will only grow and improve as well. It is in exciting time for democratization of the business of art.
What’s in store for Astronautalis in 2015?
Well, I finished a new record (shopping that to labels now). I am re-releasing my entire back catalogue of rarities (about 8 EPs or so?) in the coming weeks. I have been working on a performance art piece with some British artists at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Starting on a couple of rad musical side projects. Sketching some ground plans for a top-secret non-musical project this summer. Touring a bunch in the states and Europe. And hopefully riding the hell out of my motorcycles as soon as the snow thaws…if not sooner.
Venice Beach-based producer Anthony Howell AKA Sound Remedy blends an array of beats, genres and synth sounds to create electronic music that surpasses expectations and makes people move. Between remixes and originals, Sound Remedy has enjoyed mass exposure on YouTube thanks to his own channel and others’. He’s reached #1 on Hype Machine’s charts on numerous occasions and has acquired plenty of touring experience.
Sound Remedy is the perfect example when discussing the power of user generated content on YouTube: videos using his music have seen over 150 million views! By partnering with TuneCore, he’s now able to collect revenue on those videos when ads are placed on them. In our interview, Sound Remedy explains how key YouTube relationships, a liberal sharing/’open content’ strategy, and TuneCore’s YouTube Sound Recording revenue collection play into his success as an independent artist:
Tell us a little bit about how your career has been progressing over the past few years as you’ve shifted away from remixes to originals.
Sound Remedy: Remixes are incredible opportunities for exposure because you’re taking an already good song and putting your own twist on it. Unfortunately, the internet has become a lot stricter on remixes. Switching over to originals has helped me because owning your own content can be a lot more lucrative then taking others and reworking it. It’s also important as an artist, to define your sound and this process is a lot more effective with original content.
As an independent artist, what social platform do find yourself using the most, and why?
I’m not tied to any specific social platform at this point. I would say I am more tied to the entire distribution and experience platform that is “the internet.” The problem with sticking to any one platform is the fact that platforms change unpredictably over time. For instance, Facebook just terminated the “Like to Download” functionality which was a vital part of the growth of my career.
The best strategy is to spread your brand onto as many relevant platforms as possible. You want your fans to be able to find you on whatever they use and because everyone is different, this strategy is the most optimal. All this being said, I believe SoundCloud is the most important platform for my brand specifically because that platform focuses solely on the music content itself.
Regardless you boast pretty impressive numbers on both Twitter & Facebook. What kind of advice do you have for indies looking to build their social communities?
First, you need to make sure that every social network you have links the other social networks. For instance, your Facebook should have links to Twitter, Instagram, etc. and vice versa. You want to make yourself as discoverable as possible. I used the “like to download” functionality (which no longer exists) to grow my network. When you’re first starting out, the path to take is to flood the internet with extremely high quality content and incentivize sharing and following actions in exchange for that content. Even though “Like To Download” doesn’t exist, there is still tweet and follow to download applications which should definitely be utilized. It’s also important to get your music on the blogs (another vital part of my career).
Develop concrete relationships with blogs; NEVER spam them. It’s best to send them targeted content via their ingestion platforms and be as personalized as possible, (nobody wants to feel like just another contact on an email list serve).
Where does YouTube rank in terms of how you interact with your fans?
To be completely honest, I haven’t taken YouTube extremely seriously until now. People have always just naturally uploaded my content to YouTube and it has amassed tens of millions of plays over the years. I never looked at that as a way to make money, but now that I’m releasing original content everything has changed. I think there is one very important fact about YouTube that everyone forgets: it’s the biggest music streaming platform in the world. SoundCloud, YouTube, and Spotify are my three main focuses at the moment in terms of streaming platforms.
How do you use YouTube when it comes to sharing new music, connecting with your fans, and reaching new listeners?
I use YouTube to upload my music, music videos, live performance content, and also to promote my upcoming tours. I also use it to premier various songs.
Do you encourage the use of your music in user-generated videos on YouTube? In what ways have you seen this being done?
I encourage people to upload my music and I also tell them that I won’t ever issue a “take down” request on them. However, there is a lot deeper principle at play here. The goal is to create content which is high enough in quality that people want to share it. If you can create songs that are good enough, the entire process will happen naturally and organically. Also, let’s look at a case study for artists and management teams who have been liberal about the sharing and remix process. Lana Del Rey and Band of Horses both have teams behind them who “get it.” I’ve remixed both these bands (without their permission) and the respective streams have generated over 25,000,000 views or more. Both of these artists gain new fans from the exposure that I give them, and they can also make money by monetizing the streams on YouTube. Take this principle into consideration when other people remix and upload your own work to their channels.
The single worst thing you can do is to have a “closed content” strategy in which you enforce that your music can only be experienced on platforms that you control; this will vastly undercut your gross revenue earning potential for too many reasons to even list.
What would you say the ratio of revenue collected from your YouTube channel versus others that use your music is?
My YouTube channel currently only has 18,000 subscribers and 2,200,000 views. The amount of views from other people using my music on YouTube is between 50,000,000 and 150,000,000. I only started collecting revenue from the other section of YouTube two months ago. So far I’ve seen month over month revenue increases from that section of 500% and as I ingest more songs I expect extremely rapid growth. At this current section of time (November’s earnings report) I earn 20% of my revenue from my channel as opposed to other people using my music on their channels. However, the revenue growth on my YouTube channel is only about 3% to 7% month over month.
Since I began using TuneCore’s YouTube Sound Recording revenue collection service, I have seen 500% revenue growth month over month on the other channels. Based on a few calculations and the fact that I am submitting more songs to the service, I expect this revenue to grow between 500% and 1,500% month over month for the next two months. In about three months, the amount of money that I earn from my own channel verses others will most likely be less than 5%.
How do you see YouTube impacting the way people consume music in the next 10 years or even further into the future?
The music industry is undergoing a lot of changes. We’ve seen physical/digital music sales steadily decreasing while the streaming market is growing over 50% year over year. YouTube is currently the biggest streaming platform so it’s important. YouTube is only one piece of puzzle, I think the entire streaming market is going to continue to grow and should therefore be made a priority for all artists.
How has TuneCore helped you in your musical journey?
TuneCore has helped me get to a point where I am no longer reliant on touring to make money, and for that I am very grateful. I can now maintain my lifestyle in Venice Beach solely from the royalties I earn on the service and from music licensing and synchs.
Would you recommend using TuneCore’s YouTube Sound Recording revenue collection service to other independent artists?
I would 100% recommend TuneCore’s YouTube Sound Recording revenue collection to other independent artists. There is money being left on the table so let TuneCore go out and collect it for you!
TuneCore Artists are releasing tons of new music every day. Each week we check out the new TuneCore releases and choose a few at random to feature on the blog.
Is your hit next?
Nora Jane Struthers & the Party Line
The Movie Remixed
Hip Hop/Rap, Electronic
Little Brother is Watching
Bread of Stone
Rob Bailey & the Hustle Standard
If you’re a reader of the TuneCore Blog, you already know that the kick-off of our TuneCore Live Series was a huge success! The bands tore up the stage, the DJs kept people moving, and we packed the joint with fans. Now, one month later, we’re gearing up for the second installment of TuneCore Live. We’ll be back at the Bardot in L.A. this Wednesday, February 25th at 8pm. The event is free, brought to you with the help of wonderful sponsors Swisher Sweets, CraveOnline, Mirrored Media, and Ultimate Ears!
This month, we’ve enlisted TuneCore Artists WATERBED, Knower, and Dear Boy, with a special guest DJ set by HOLYCHILD. We’re psyched to be giving our artists an opportunity on the ground and we encourage any L.A.-based TuneCore Artist to come and hang out! Our L.A. staff will be hosting the event with Swisher and CraveOnline, and this is the perfect time to come rub elbows, ask questions, give us feedback, and support a few of your fellow TuneCore Artists!
Speaking of which, scroll down to learn more about the artists in the line-up, hear some tunes, and see how TuneCore has been part of the journey so far:
Formed in 2010, KNOWER are a LA electronic-funk-pop duo fusing hot pop vocals with high energy glitch-beats. Set to a futuristic backdrop of live visual graphics, Louis Cole and Genevieve Artadi’s performance is an addictive sonic firework display. Quincy Jones described KNOWER as, “Very, very, very talented young people. I’m just thrilled to see them PUTTING MUSIC BACK TO WHERE IT BELONGS!! With PASSION!”“[Being independent] means we can do whatever we want. Nobody is our boss. TuneCore is the greatest. Fast, affordable, easy-to-use way to get our music to the right digital stores and radio stations and stuff.” – KNOWER
Dear Boy plays bitter-sweet alternative rock with roots in both post-punk and 90‘s British guitar pop. Propelled by the single “Oh So Quiet,” Dear Boy built a devoted live following, headlining local venues such as the Troubadour and The Bootleg Theater, along with performances at SXSW 2014 in Austin, TX and a national tour supporting Kitten.“TuneCore has been absolutely essential for us. Since we’re a new band, it’s empowering to be able to set our own release dates and connect our audience with our jams whenever we damn well please. You’re getting content straight from us… We write the music, we record the music and then it’s yours. Farm to f**king table.” – Dear Boy
WATERBED is composed of Tarzana, CA couple Paternostro and Chad Montermini. Meeting in Boston in 2010 and forming under their original moniker, Musvles, they were signed to Warner Music Group. However, Waterbed were at odds with their label over creative control, and eventually got prematurely dropped. “You can do it their way and let the labels tell you what to do and pump those steroids, but we’re doing it our own way, eating healthy and just working out every day,” explained Montermini.“All WATERBED music starts in our minds and goes directly from our hands to our fans. We create the music that we love, and share it directly with the world. TuneCore makes it possible for us to spread our music through all of the big digital outlets – reaching fans from all around, and getting paid.”
Happy Friday! Only one more left in this chilly month, but for now you’ll have to keep warm with this round up of TuneCore Artist videos: