Scott Cohen presents…

I was unexpectedly at Futuresonic in Manchester on Thursday, and I’m pretty glad it worked out that way. I can’t recommend strongly enough that if you get the chance to go to this sort of thing, that you make the most of it. Attending seminars and conferences is how you’ll get that one little bit of knowledge or insight that’ll give you the edge you need. It also means you can strike up a conversation with whoever’s presenting and pick their brains.

You’re probably aware that I attend a lot of these sort of things as a speaker. I try and get to as many as I possibly can as an attendee as well. It can be invaluable stuff and I always learn a lot.

In this instance, there were some really great people there, and some interesting talks — particularly the session on social music.

Jonas, the head of music for made a lot of sense and presented well. His observation that when people can listen to whole tracks for free, they are more likely to buy the music was backed up by pretty strong data.

Scott Cohen, who was one of the founders of digital distribution company The Orchard also made good sense. That surprised me, because I’m not convinced that the model on which The Orchard is based is an ideal one for music companies or consumers.

That’s a longer story.

10 things
Scott Cohen’s 10 things

But at any rate, Cohen’s analysis of community building was interesting – as was his 10-point list of things for musicians and music businesses to bear in mind about community:

1. Not a website – last century
You don’t want a website. That’s a very old school idea. It shouldn’t be a brochure. You should have a place where people can engage with you and each other. There’s more on this idea in my 20 Things e-book in the section on Web 2.0.

2. MTV – ‘“I am not an actor’
When MTV came along, a lot of musicians didn’t want to be in videos because it ‘wasn’t their thing’. The ones who became super successful were the ones who made (and appeared in) great clips. Same deal with communities online. Those who engage survive. This seems quite close to my Theatre Director’s Dilemma story.

3. Real voice – blog
There’s no point acting all superior and aloof. People want real. Again, can’t argue here. I’ve talked about this stuff in terms of ‘selling relationship‘.

4. Statement – stand for something
If you plant your flag and stand for something, then people have something to align themselves with. It strengthens and builds community around a shared set of values. There’s good further reading in the book The Culting of Brands.

5. Update continuously – dynamic
Nobody’s coming back to a community that only updates once a month or once a week. There should be constant, dynamic action. You and I have had this conversation.

6. Engage with audience – responsive
You can’t just open a community and have others do the work. Does Beyonce respond to comments in her MySpace page? No – and nobody believes she does. You have to actually be part of the discussion. This is good advice. You can’t fake engagement.

7. Remove non-members – spam
Your community is like a garden. Weed it. If people don’t play by the rules, kick them out. Nobody wants to be part of a community that is not policed. I’m not as sold on this beyond the elimination of spam. Communities can be self-healing and responsive rather than being gated areas with burly security guards. I’d say use the community to keep the community in order.

8. Shopping – not buying
Dont’ put a ‘Buy It’ button everywhere. If people want to make a purchase, they’ll go to the right page or alternatively, they know where iTunes and Amazon are. They’re not stupid. So let them just shop around. Leave them alone. This is good advice. A ‘find out more’ button might be more appropriate.

9. Feed the audience – free
Give them free stuff constantly. Keep the gift channels open at all times. I’ve talked about this in terms of rewarding and incentivising your audience.

10. Build to an event – ongoing promotion
The reason X-Factor and Pop Idol work is that Simon Cowell doesn’t just come out on the stage and say ‘“We spent the last few months scouring the country for the best in the land, and here they are. Now buy the record.’ It’s the build-up, the narrative and getting to know the characters that makes it work. It’s absurd that Coldplay disappear for two years, and then come back with a new album – ‘“tah-dah! Miss us?’

Some really great ideas in there – one or two of which I’ll be applying across my own suite of blogs (that’s what I’m calling them now: a ‘suite’). I’m particularly keen on this last one – not because I’m a fan of X-Factor, but because it fits in so well with the way in which I’m writing the ‘100 Questions’ book here on New Music Strategies.

I can post what essentially amounts to a draft, and then the answers can be modified and informed in response. I’m always open to being persuaded by a good counter-argument, and that book can be all the better for your comments and discussions as I go along.

I’ll have more thoughts on this as we go along – and, hopefully, you will too. I’ll be interested to read (and engage with) your comments.