The Ryan Michaels Band Experience by Rachel Cunningham and Eric Richter

          Ryan Michaels is a California-born but Nashville-dwelling man of rock.  Personable, talented, and hard-working, he is the ideal front man for any rock band, especially for one named after him.  The Ryan Michaels Band has become one of Music City’s premier rock music performers.  This past summer, the group won two Nashville Independent Music Awards for Best Pop/Rock Band and Best Live Rock Performers.  Armed with positive messages and a great pop-rock sound which rivals similar artists with mainstream air-play, RMB has the drive and the skills to stay relevant and on top of the game.

Ariel Hyatt, owner of Ariel Publicity and the brain behind Cyber PR®, and Professor Charlie Dahan teamed up this fall to teach 18 lucky (or just skilled in the art of registration) students Cyber PR ® at Middle Tennessee State University..  Cyber PR ® is a form of online marketing which is geared towards musical artists but can be applied to an array of products or services..  As a client of Ariel Publicity, RMB had the option to assist the class for hands-on Cyber PR ® projects.

The Team: Rachel Cunningham, Eric Richter & the Ryan Michaels Band

The Cyber PR ® Marketing Strategy

The Research: Our first step was to get to know RMB and their music.  The band is originally from San Francisco but they have made a strong name for themselves in the Nashville rock music scene.  They have a sound similar to Daughtry, Bon Jovi, and Shinedown.  They are well known for their strong lyrical content and the positive messages found in their music.  The single off of their most recent album, “Live Is For The Living,” is a prime example.  The video for the single tells the stories of real Nashvillians striving to live better lives. RMB is about personal connection.  Ryan Michaels said “We want to connect with our audience in a way that makes them feel uplifted.”  Actually, one of our obstacles during the project was because of this.  We used email and Ryan prefers a phone call or a Skype session.  It is hard to argue that that is a “problem.”  An artist that wants real face-time and to connect on a more personal level is a great thing. Once we hammered out our small communication misunderstanding, it was smooth sailing.

The Target: Once we listened to all of RMB’s music and did our background research, we next needed to pinpoint their target audience.  RMB should be targeting the audiences of Daughtry and Bon Jovi, which are middle-aged, Caucasian females.

The Evaluation: We reviewed their website, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, ReverbNation, LastFM, and other online accounts and made suggestions for ways to increase traffic and to make the sites easier to navigate and more appealing to visitors. Below are the following suggestions that we made.  Whether or not the suggestions were implemented was entirely up to RMB.  The one suggestion that we continued to push in all of our conversations with Ryan was to interact with his fans more.  The reason social media is so powerful is because it allows for people to connect to their favorite artists.  We wanted Ryan to take full advantage of that.

Top suggestions for online entities:
-Sign-Up for Spotify premium. Well worth the investment.
-Offer a free download in exchange for fan’s email addresses.  Make sure the link is working and easy to navigate.
-Take previous tour dates off of the website and add on all upcoming dates.
-Make sure there are links to all social media/music sites on the top of the website home page.
-Content curation!  Provide content on Facebook and Twitter that gives followers the opportunity to engage.  – Keep in mind the rule that only 1 out of every 10 posts should be self-promoting.
-Interact with fans on social media sites on a personal level. If someone comments or asks a question, try to answer them back.
-Choose one music application: Rootmusic or ReverbNation.

The Plan:  We wanted to pick a platform and create a marketing strategy based around it.  We chose Spotify because it seems to be nicely nestled on the lips of industry professionals everywhere.  Spotify is a streaming music service which allows consumers to choose from over 15 millions songs.  Spotify users can choose any song at random and they can create playlists and personalize their listening experience.  Now that Spotify has teamed up with Facebook, it is slowly becoming the platform for music discovery.  Hear a song you like on Spotify?  With just one click of a button, you can post it to your facebook and allow all of your friends to listen with you.  You can see what your friends are listening to in real-time, and they you.

Unfortunately, Spotify isn’t such a black and white subject.  There are many artists and industry professionals who are trying to fight the idea of streaming music, and with good reason too.  The amount of money that artists and rights holders make from one stream of their song is minuscule compared to a download or a hard copy purchase.  It makes sense that the music business would fight to stay just that…in business.  The problem is that these are the same people who are still fighting the good fight against music piracy.  Is it a noble cause?  Of course!  Is it one they have a chance of winning?  To be determined…. I guess.  Streaming music is a possible answer to help fight piracy.  When P2P sharing became popular, so many people fought against it then they saw the music discovery tool that it could be.  Does no one see this happening all over again? Why not skip the fight and jump right to using  such a platform to our advantage from the beginning?

Let’s look at the advantagous side of Spotify.  If someone is on Spotify and listens to a song, all of their friends on Facebook can see that. That means hundreds of people who otherwise might have never known that a particular artist exists, will now see that band’s name.  Let’s think people- how can we use this to our advantage??  That is how the music industry will be saved.  Jump outside that box and don’t immediately turn your nose up to the ideas that will “end the music business.”  It is when you are unable to think forward that you are in trouble of irrelevance.  Who knows?  Maybe the increase in impressions of new music will propel the creation of better music.  Okay, okay, I know- that is a conversation for another blog post.

Now that there has been a sufficient enough rant for this blog, onward to the point: How can we use Spotify to help promote the Ryan Michaels Band? We decided to use the Playlist option as a way to promote music to fans. We created a rock playlist and paired RMB up with artists of a similar nature.  The idea is that people who like those artists will listen to the playlist and then unknowingly listen to the RMB.  It’s an intended accident.  They could accidentally find out about a new band which matches their already current tastes.  The obstacle is getting them to listen…

Creation of playlst: check.  Promotion: Here we go. Since Facebook and Spotify are already good buds, it made sense to use Facebook to push the playlist.  We drafted several post suggestions for Ryan about the playlist and encouraged him to target his “evangelists.” We also plan to do a Facebook and/or Twitter contest.   RMB will post on Facebook and Twitter and say that five random fans who share the playlist on their page, and five random followers who retweet the playlist to their followers will receive a copy of the album “Life Is For The Living” signed by Ryan.

Sharing Is Caring

The Goal: Our goal with the Spotify playlist, Facebook contest, increased content on social networking sites, and interaction on Facebook is to get the RMB fan page from 2,672 fans up to 3,000.

In Addition (We like Math):  We created a list of music blogs and contacted the writers on behalf of  RMB to see if they would be interested in doing a write-up on the band or in reviewing the album. Outside press is a great thing to have because it shows reputability and attention. It is also something that can be shared on social media networks with friends and fans, and is a way to showcase others (the blog writers) and post content that is not always 100% about the band.

So far, this has been an amazing learning experience but it isn’t over yet. We have the next 2 weeks mapped out for facebook posts and we have every intention of reaching our goal of 3,000 Facebook fans.  Wish us luck and hey- do us a favor: Go “Like” the Ryan Michaels Band. Support local musicians and music business students at the same time. This is what we call a Win – Win – Win.
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