Politics, DIY, and the Lessons We Need To Learn

Did you vote back on November 6th?  If you did, you had different ways to go in that booth.  Left to right.  Up to down.  Democrat to Republican.  Libertarian to Green.  And did you look at the other political parties?  You could have chosen the Cannot Be Bought party.  Or the Freedom, Responsibility, Action party.  Or the Honesty, Integrity, Compassion party.

In the Illinois governor’s race, the candidate who won, a Democrat, pulled out a victory by 15 points over his closest challenger, a Republican.  J.B. Pritzger, who won, spent $171.5 million OF HIS OWN MONEY to win and lead the Prairie State for the next four years.

Who cares?  Politics aside, if you read the article above (click on the headline), you’ll see the different ways that Pritzger spent his cash.  And if you substitute his name in the article with “DIY artist,” you may suddenly begin to appreciate how we all can learn from what this guy did.

Every since President Obama won his first presidential election in 2008, I’ve thought about the similarities of getting a candidate elected for office and getting a band/artist noticed by its target markets.  Consider this: A candidate wants people to promoter him/her on social media, through telephone calls, by physically knocking on doors, attending rallies, and donating money.In music, artists want the same thing.  They’re looking for superfans who will buy concert tickets and share concert dates or new songs on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat/Text.  They want people to invite others to the artist’s shows, maybe drive their friends long distances to go to that out-of-the-way club or house show.  Artists want fans to donate money through crowdfunding or by buying their merch.

Do you see the similarities?

If we hopped into a hot air balloon or fancy futuristic Amazon drone and looked down, we’d see that there are major candidates from the major parties just like we have superstar artists signed to major labels.  Most artists, however, are from the Cannot Be Bought or Honesty, Integrity, Compassion party.  These are the unsigned artists trying to break through the noise and clutter and budgets of the major candidates and major labels. 

So what does this have to do with J.B. Pritzger?

The guy’s background is not in politics.  It’s in business.  But his pockets, the second deepest pockets ever involved in a U.S. election (he’s a billionaire, second only to former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg in terms of personal wealth), helped him negotiate the path to election.

Most of us don’t have his money.  But his strategy may be something that we can learn from on the music side.  Read the article.  See how he broke up his areas of marketing focus:

– Digital
– TV Ads
– Staffing
– Party Building

Read this from the article:

“This was on an unprecedented level. They applied science and innovation to it at every level and remained committed to it,” said Doug House, a Democrat who has been involved in Illinois political campaigns for more than 30 years. “They looked at the entire state and mapped out an idea of the universe of people they wanted to engage and stayed involved in that in every level of innovation that’s out there.”

Pritzger also toured the state extensively.  He claimed to have met or been in front of 200,000 during the campaign.

Let’s look at his marketing mix then.

He spent $30 million on digital marketing.  No band or artist, not even Adele, has that much money to spend.  But you don’t need much of anything, other than an iPhone, to do an ad like THIS (the caps mean click and watch).  Look below, too.

Production doesn’t have to cost much of anything.  Creativity?  That’s free if you just sit and think for a minute.  But getting that creative “production” in front of people?  Yeah, that’s the hardest part.  Let’s come back to it. 

Touring.  Billionaires can afford their own bus (or buses) and hotels and drivers.  A band/artist can’t travel the country on their own dime.  It’s really too expensive. The vehicle is definitely going to break down or get a flat.  Gas needs to be bought.  Food needs to be consumed.  Then there are the broken guitar strings, the blown out amps, the stolen cymbals and snare drum, the pink eye and its requisite co-pay… 

The DIY tour is doable, but its scope needs to be reined in.  Yet, you can’t play New Jersey three times a week, every week, because you’ll overstay your welcome.  You need to expand, slowly, and get into Philly and Brooklyn and NYC and Connecticut and Utica.  Which starts to cost more in gas, and hotel (or Air BnB), and time off from work.   But you have to tour.  You have to get in front of people.  Of course, there’s also…

TV.  J.B. Pritzger spent $67 million on TV ads.  You rarely see major artists anywhere on TV.  And DIY artists?  Forget it.  First of all, it’s crazy expensive.  But most important, your audience isn’t there.  A gubernatorial candidate NEEDS to be on TV because they’re going for a mass audience.  If you as an artist have any brains at all, you’ll realize that music in the 21st century builds from the smallest of the small niche.  Forget about the stars that come out of nowhere.  Assume that will NOT happen to you.  Because, in all likelihood, it won’t.  Instead, focus on reality.  Your audience is probably on social media, and probably on Instagram first and foremost.  Then, there’s YouTube, which is the television of the millennial and Gen Z crowd.

You can create your “commercial,” as we said above, for a minimal amount of money.  Just use your noggin and think and plan.  Upload it to YouTube.  Then, when you tour, tell the people in the audience about it.  Or play the video behind you as you perform.  There are performance spaces that have the means of playing content on a screen behind the stage.  Take advantage of that.  Or bring a laptop to your merch table and play the video there.  Bring some Beats headphones and let people listen to whatever it is you’re saying.  Then, share that link with the individual through a Direct Message.

Staffing.  You can’t do it all alone.  But it’s really hard to get an experienced manager unless something is starting to pop.  This is where the superfan comes in, or the best friend who likes your music.  If you trust them, turn them into your team.  Let them work the merch table and earn a 25% commission.  Send them some Sandler Sales videos to watch so they can learn to do more than just stand behind a table and take orders.  They need to help turn those people watching and considering buying a sticker or t shirt into fans who’ll buy both and share their purchases on social media.  Then, that person needs to get EVERYONE who bought something a pic with the band.

It’s all about connections.  Whether it’s in person (the most effective) or through something digital, it’s about making those connections.  J.B. Prtizger had the means to go on the road 24/7 (we can assume he didn’t have to ask a boss for a weekend off).  He had the means to boost his Facebook and Instagram posts.  He could afford to pay staff to work with him full time.

And he also did something called Party Building.  Here’s what the article says about that:

Along the way, Pritzker doled out $20 million to Democratic groups and competitive campaigns, building up his own loyalties. The Blue Wave program that was an arm of Pritzker’s campaign’s purpose was to relaunch, build out and co-opt an unstructured Illinois Democratic Party, one long ruled by a small but powerful Chicago-based machine so outdated it only recently launched its own website.

How does this correspond with the independent artist?  Since the money isn’t there, this is where the networking comes in.  This is where Band A asks Band B to play on a show, in the hopes that Band B asks Band A to play on a show that also includes Band C.  And, in the audience, is Band D.  Now, Band A has increased their ability to play shows threefold.  Bands B, C, and D have the same opportunity.  More opportunities lead to more shows which lead to more eye contact with real human beings in a real setting. 

How can you do this?  There are multiple Facebook Groups that offer connections.  Examples include NJ DIY, Philadelphia DIY Collaborative, NJ Music show swap, and Connecticut DIY.  Join the groups.  Participate.  Don’t just post your new songs or your shows.  Offer up opportunities.  Join to network.  Join to give, not just to take.

Now, don’t think that what J.B. Pritzger did is a pipe dream.  There are organizations in the music industry that do have much deeper pockets than you and I.  You know who they are.  Why, we’re talking about the major labels and… wait for it – Ticketmaster.  That’s right.  The money is in live music.  If you get to the elevated plain in which Ticketmaster is the ticket seller for one of your shows, then you’re actually in a good place.

“No, they’re evil. So are the labels,” some of you are saying.

My answer to that is we’re all human.  We all have dreams and hopes.  We all want people to like us.  We all poop (true).  We all have families.  We all have fears.  We all get sick and get hungry and get sleepy.  Whether you are Chance The Rapper or Michael Rapino (if you don’t know who Michael Rapino is, you’d best look him up immediately) or Professor David Kirk Philp, you are a human being who shares human characteristics with every other human on the planet.

That includes the people who work for major labels and, yes, even Ticketmaster.

You know what the people who work for major labels want most?  For their artists to be really successful.  Because if the artists are successful, the label is successful.  A successful label means people are doing their jobs and therefore get to keep their jobs and get healthcare and money for rent or a house or a vacation to Piscataway.

You know what the people of Ticketmaster want most?  To sell out every venue where they sell tickets.  They don’t want to screw people.  In fact, Ticketmaster would rather come up with technologies (like Verified Fan) to beat back bots and scalpers.  Ticketmaster has the marketing means, in terms of technology and staffing and knowledge, to help bands sell more tickets, reach more people, and succeed.

The labels are the same way.  They have people who are smart who can help artists build marketing campaigns.  They have funding and connections to put together Influencer campaigns to help more people know about their artists.  They have funding and organization and experience and can help an artist tour correctly and not waste limited resources.

So if you’re a DIY artist, you can model your 2019 after what J.B. Pritzger did, just on a smaller scale.

If you have the opportunity to get a deal with a major label or tour supporting a major label artist in which Ticketmaster is the source of tickets, you can think about what Pritzger did and see how you can utilize the resources of those companies.  Remember, it’s not just money.  It’s creativity.  It’s time.  It’s staff.  It’s networking and making connections.  It’s teamwork.

What you should NOT do is what a dude from LA did.  Click on the link below and be amazed at the chutzpah this guy showed.  Credit him for getting as far as he did.  But understand that you should not replicate this.  Don’t cut corners on a wish.  It’s not going to work for you.

LA Band Threatin Faked A Fanbase To Land A European Tour No One Attended 

Okay. If you put more effort into creating fake bios and buying fake followers and making false identities than actually practicing, creating, and building all of the things that you’re faking, maybe you should get caught.  I saw this link on Twitter and LinkedIn.  The pic above is from Facebook.  We all know who Threatin is now.  This isn’t what they’d hoped for, however.


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Professor David Philp is Assistant Professor Music & Entertainment Industries and Popular Music Studies at William Paterson University. He is the co-host of the only FREE advice college radio-based music & entertainment industry talk show in America, Music Biz 101 & More, which airs live most Wednesday nights and is available as a podcast HERE every night (days too).  Your favorite professor is also co-author (with Dr. Steve Marcone) of Managing Your Band – 6th Edition.  Reach him at PhilpD@wpunj.edu or find him on LinkedIn HERE.

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