What a wild ride the summer of 2015 was! Great music, great bicycling, and great press. My life was in the groove. Plus, thanks to the #1 record, the time was ripe to ask my friends to help me further build the Michael James brand.
In the “new” record business, many folks believe that you don’t make money from record sales, but rather from “building your brand.” For the sake of this post, let’s not worry about what to actually do with said built brand after you build it. Instead we’ll focus on one specific way to raise awareness of your brand: “friend-sourcing.”
In my case, I made a point of engaging with my fans and clients since my first day on the job. I like to think I have some good karma and good will in the bank. Maybe enough to cash in, in the form of enlisting the help of my friends…
My plan? Mobilize the troops to create a renewed buzz about my current success stories, with the goal of expanding my client base.
When one attempts to do this beyond the local grassroots level, one typically (and wisely) hires a publicist and a street team. I, however, decided to friend-source. I called my friends directly to ask for their help.
This decision was not motivated by financial considerations as much as instinct. My gut told me that folks who knew me would be happy to treat me with the same enthusiasm, kindness and generosity that I showed them. Plus their efforts would be genuine, not manufactured.
I was right. Everybody I asked delivered…and there’s a reason.
I’ve always believed that healthy relationships are balanced with respect to both giving and receiving. I strive for this equilibrium.
As an example, Wade Goeke of Chandler Limited made it (relatively) easy for me to buy his products. After each purchase, I inevitably needed support in the form of consultation to ensure that I was able to get the most from his pro audio and guitar products. As we became more familiar with each other, we became professional friends. Not only would I provide real world feedback from the front lines, I would also take a genuine interest in his life—and he in mine. I recall sending him an emotionally uplifting song, Light On The Horizon, when he was facing a difficult challenge. He was very appreciative, and sent a heartfelt note to me, explaining that the simple act of reaching out was exactly what he needed to remember that he was not alone.
So, Wade was happy to help when I asked him if his social media maven could spread the word about my scene in a mutually beneficial manner. By publishing a feature about the role of his products in my workflow, he would be attached to a current hit while I would tap into his network of fans and customers. Win-win.
Several other pro audio sponsors followed suit, including Dangerous Music, Manley Labs, and Glyph Technologies. Their efforts, in turn, led to features with SonicScoop and other prestigious publications.
Meanwhile, I pondered who among my journalist acquaintances might have a reason to pitch a story to their editors. Clive Young, of Pro Sound News, used to publish a fanzine, Joy Buzzer, that was devoted to NY rockers Too Much Joy. Clive interviewed me a couple times about my role as Producer of TMJ’s major label debut album, Son Of Sam I Am. To this day, he and I remain devoted fans and friends of the band, so we share a bond that only TMJ devotees would understand. Long story short, I pitched him a story. Because Clive is a really good guy who genuinely enjoys helping others, he found a way to turn the idea into something even bigger and better. He determined that we could break it apart into five separate features that would dose the Michael James story across several months instead of a one shot deal. Win-win again…and again.
Friend-sourcing ensured that everybody had a reason to help me. All my friends genuinely want me to succeed in my endeavors. By the end of the summer, I had been featured in around a dozen new, unique, significant publications, both physical and digital. The exposure was huge, and it opened new doors to opportunity.
I highly recommend friend-sourcing to anyone who is serious about pursuing or maintaining a career in today’s record business. For it to work, however, it is imperative that you give at least as much as you take. Remember: people will want to help you if you demonstrate that you want to help them.
* If you’d like to read Friend-Sourcing, Part 1: Getting By With A Little Help From My Friends, click on the link. And stay tuned for Friend-Sourcing, Part 3, which will be here sooner than you’d expect!