Sunday 6 January 2013

George Barnett. 19 years old. Unsigned. 120,000 YouTube views in 14 days

A strategy to consider: build your online profile first. Do it systematically. Then think about going on the road. It can work splendidly. So... how to approach it?

A giant leap of faith....
A year or so ago, Richard Shakespeare, affable photographer of this parish, and featured here, had a lot on his plate. Stepping stress levels up even further by taking on the management of an unproven but hugely talented 18 year old - George Barnett -  wasn’t on the agenda. So, of course, that's exactly what he did. Team GB was formed.

It seems to have gone well. Actually, that's an understatement. It's gone pretty explosively well, and it's happening right now. This week, YouTube views for George Barnett’s latest video - embedded further down in this post - clicked briskly past 118,000 and change. To do this in about two weeks is quite an achievement. After all, many people produce fabulous videos which then struggle to hit 10,000 views or less. And they take months to get there.

It's another part of the great online marketing myth: that anyone can put their stuff out there, sit back... and watch it explode. Know what? That almost never happens. Content is key, certainly, but selling that content is essential too. So hitting six figures from a standing start is  impressive, the result of a year’s worth of intensive effort, on-line and off. So how did Richard and Team GB do it? Answers after the jump.

I’ve watched George Barnett and his band quite a few times at local gigs in 2012. He has a huge, gangly, appealing stage presence. Slick it’s not; garlanded with lovely songs, passionate and emotional it certainly is. He connects, unlike many performers who have absolutely no idea how to even start. So the on-stage element seems to be nicely nailed down. And, more significant still, Barnett’s approach seems to go down particularly well with young women.

The video in question. Open it in YouTube and check the numbers - has it hit 125k yet?

But stage presence and impressing female fans is one thing; building on-line awareness quite another. Talking with Rich and George, it's clear there's been a lot of groundwork.

So the question is: what have you guys done to create the demand which lets you get numbers like that?
George Barnett: Well, a lot of views came through one site - The Pirate Bay, or the Promo Bay, as it is 'officially' known these days - where it was embedded on the main page. It was like a big platform, really.
Now I'm worried. Aren't they the Swedish guys who got shut down because of piracy issues? Aren't there problems with torrent sites loaded down with dodgy porn and dodgier viruses? Are you entirely sure this is the way to go?
George Nothing of mine was uploaded - it was embedded. I just saw it as a platform.
Rich Shakespeare It works.
You can't argue with that, of course. Pirate/Promo Bay has over 6 million registered users, and 44 million regular visitors. So it is a platform to consider. Carefully... It's an issue that I've touched on before, and to which I plan to return in further posts. There are a very few ways to raise an online profile, and each of them has its merits and drawbacks. That said, a swift Google search will also show you exactly how busy George and Rich have been uploading to Soundcloud, MySpace, Bandcamp,Tumblr, Twitter and more. And there are reviews and blog posts aplenty as well. All of which boosts the profile. 

So at this stage, you are still effectively giving your music away for promotional purposes?
George  Exactly
But 120,000 views! That's great going - the kind of action that makes record companies and radio/tv sit up and take notice. 
George And as well as the hit-count, I have sold a lot of songs, and a lot more people have wound up liking me on Facebook - I think my likes went up by 1500 people in a day. 
So it this a proper breakthrough?
George I think so. But this also happened in March, with the Lone Rose video,  which has now hit 135,000 views.

You have a band, the 9th Wave. They're not on the video...
George I always record everything myself. It made more sense to put me in the video. But we've rehearsed the song for live work.
 Rich What we're trying to do is build up an audience, so that when we turn up to gigs, we don't have all the hassle and problem of an empty room, of trying to flog tickets to mates. We want people to turn up because they like what they've seen online. 
Online profile first, then gigs....?  
Rich It's all about numbers. So we've got to get those numbers up, we've got to get a high profile, so people can say 'I'm going to go and see that band'.
Has the current success of the video led to any airplay exposure apart from the local stations who know you and love you?
George Not yet. I'm working up a radio edit - the original runs a bit long. So we'll see how it goes. 
Let's get back to right now. It's fascinating - we are talking right when the video has gone boom, in a big way, and that has to come down to diligent marketing. Which should not be beyond the reach of anyone who has gone to the trouble to record a great song and make a snappy video in support.
Rich I've worked with some great bands. There's some fantastic musicians out there. But they seem to forget the marketing side. They'll just gig and gig and gig - for what? Maybe clearing £20 between them on the night. You can't keep doing that forever. And if you haven't got any cash to push yourself forward, you can't build. I think what you need to do is build up an internet audience before you go out. Then they're already there when you turn up. And that funds your next step.
What about pluggers in this scheme of things?
Rich Pluggers aren't cheap. Maybe a grand for six weeks, and an internet campaign for four weeks runs another grand. So that's two grand on something that can't be guaranteed. A few months and you're back where you started. 
'Where The Devil Sleeps' is a deeply impressive song in its full six minute glory. I can see stadiums of people waving lighters around in the air...
George (not necessarily impressed at this thought) Hmmm. OK. I know what you mean...
Rich There's some stuff in the pipeline that's going to top this. There's loads more to come, basically. But the song's been number one on bandcamp - we've sold a lot....
George I think roughly 1200 sales on the EP from bandcamp
And working this way, the market isn't the West Midlands anymore
Rich The market is pretty much global, the way we work. We're doing great in Mexico and Portugal, and America seems to be very keen....
So... good numbers and a raised profile. That's one of the ways of doing it. I'm pretty sure Rich and George have a range of tricks up their sleeves to add to their, er, presence on Pirate Bay. So all told, it's still a lot of careful and consistent work, including  a pretty huge Facebook campaign. And I'll be talking to people who know how to work Facebook to best effect later this year. Stay tuned.

George Barnett website
George Barnett bandcamp

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We're damn lucky. There's an unending variety of great music on our doorstep. I'm covering as much as I can get to. And I would love to hear from you... tell me what you might like to see covered, or feed back on what's already here using the comments link at the top of the post.


Paul Murphy said...

another very instructive and illuminating piece Robin! It clearly demonstrates the importance of having a strategy, testing it, improving it and then consistently pushing it out. Congratulations to George and Richard and best wishes for 2013!

PF said...

You clearly have to be committed and resilient to ride 'the long tail'. A lot of talent doesn't hurt either. This is inspirational.