Promotion Part 3: Seeds and seawater

Andrew Booker 2007-05-23 00:41:23

Have a look at this regional breakdown of Improvizone site traffic in April 2007. Notice the relative lengths of the horizontal bars on the left, especially the green ones.

We're a monthly improvisation evening held in a bar in London. This website and all its lovely free downloads are a promotional vehicle with no other purpose than getting people to come to the gigs. And yet according to this picture, most of our free downloads are going to people who are separated from the gig location by vast stretches of seawater. Probably they will not be coming.

I have been wondering whether I should do anything about this, like tax offshore downloads to keep them in line with UK figures, and cream off some sponds at the same time. I have decided to leave it alone, on the basis that

Another issue is that if we start taking money for downloads, morally we would be obliged to share out royalties to the contributors. That would be a whole load of accounting work, none of which would serve to promote the event. The real problem with these download figures is that they are distracting. They make the site look popular, when in fact it is not popular amongst the people I need it to be. It indicates that my promotion strategies are not working. A theory supported by the following bandwidth figures (in MB) for the previous six months.

At the end of February we did our first gig. This might explain the big jump in UK downloads from Feb-March. The EU jump is just too small, and the US increase could simply be a result of more files being available. Also, during April I did a whole load of internet listings on London events sites (see part 2). Whilst the overall site activity went up a lot in April, I can see from this list that it was only going up overseas. You know what that suggests to me? All those London events sites I spent hours researching and posting to... those are mainly visited by tourists. Not necessarily a disaster, according to my list above.

The number of downloads to the UK went down in April. That is slightly alarming. The average download size is about 4.7MB, which means no more than 20 people downloaded from the UK in April. Yikes. On the other hand, unlike MySpace, you can download these files. That means you've got the file for the next time you want to listen to it, so you don't have to take it off the site again. So in fact if the download rate drops a bit, it's OK, it just means that people have come back to the site but not found anything new to download. Even so, whichever way you look at that picture above, the UK responded to internet promotion the least. Great.

I have been using this word promotion a lot, yet most of things I've been planning or doing are not direct promotional activities. Nobody gets any free goodies up front. Eventually, if people get through to the site, they find free downloads, and in a much lesser promotional sense, this blog. Actually, so far this month, the blog has had more hits than the track download pages. While I suspect this is because the blog pages also have a comments posting section, from which we are blocking many, many attempts to post automated spam, it does give me an idea. I'm posting stuff all over the place trying to draw attention to the gigs. Perhaps I should be trying to draw attention to the blog instead?

Whatever I've been doing up until now, has it been successful?

Success means only one thing. Complete strangers coming to the gig. There will always be complete strangers at the gigs, but we are beginning to see, people who go to Imbibe for beers of an evening do not look as if they are interested in what we're doing. So in terms of people none of us know turning up to watch our gig, it's not happening yet.

Looking back to April, when I started the first round of posters and web listings, site visitor hits doubled. But as the bandwidth chart above shows, more traffic appeared to be going to the States than to Londoners looking for something different. Surprisingly, out of hundreds of new visitors that month, only a handful were logged as referrals from other sites (Google Ads logged the most referrals). Well over 80% of visits were from people typing the address into the browser, or bookmarking it. Not all listings sites allowed me to put a link, but it suggests that even putting posters up in about 10 shops in London did something.

Also, around the time of of posters and web listings, I started getting emails. Clever ones and silly ones. As a clever example, on 29 May we will be welcoming into the fold Simeon Harris, the first musician to play at an Improvizone gig whom I've not met yet. Great! Of the sillier examples, I'm getting emails from out-of-town bands looking for a gig in London. Out-of-town as in Somerset. Or Poland. We're a guitar/vocals/drum-machine [spit] electro-pop trio, please could you give us a slot. Erm, right. And the whole idea of what we do here is...? Nah, you don't want me, girls and boys, you want a promoter. I realised while I was writing this article that you have to look a bit carefully for the word improvisation on the front page, and you have to look a bit carefully to find the article that describes what we're about. I could correct these two deficiencies I suppose. I bet it will make no difference. Another distraction.

So much for everything I've done so far, neither genuine promotion, nor successful in drawing a civilised throng of Seekers of the Interesting Gig. What can I do now? Naturally, I find the answer in the back garden. All those lush green planty things... how did they get there? Seeds. Or bulbs. Or rhizomes, corms, tubers... cuttings... Look, can we stick with seeds for a second? Scatter enough of the right sort onto bare earth and eventually you get a nice big lawn. I am thinking about what I can scatter around in the right places that will eventually grow us a lovely audience.

I think back to the last gig, with people who knew us paying attention in one half, and the rest of the venue drinking themselves into belligerence in the other. And I'm thinking, at the very least, we should be trying to engage those people a bit better, even if there's not much you can do after they've been on the raz for three hours. You know what I think... maybe the Liverpool Street factor is missing... Finally, three blog posts later, I have a new idea.

I'm looking into the cost of making a load of 80mm CDs to hand out as promotional items at our gigs, and outside other gigs too, a bit more yummy than fliers, and less likely to be ripped up dropped on the pavement. Actually we should have no objection to the audio being ripped, the more people who find out about it the better.

You can fit 190MB on that size of disc, which is a bit less than 20 minutes of music. That's provided you press them. If you burn them as CD-Rs, you only get 145MB. I need to look at the arithmetic a bit more on this, and compare with the cost of good colour fliers, and check with the people who are going to be on it that they agree with the idea, but I'm pretty excited about it. We are certainly not short of music, though I think it would be nice to put stuff on there that has not been posted yet. It would also be good to make it up entirely of live stuff. For example, there is a nice long piece from the last gig I want to use, too long to post on the site, but a pity to break up too much.

Hmm. Quite pleased with that horticultural seed-CD analogy. Better than... ha!... the Improv-rhizome!! Groan.

Promotion Part 2: Target practice << | >> 4th gig: Tuesday 29 May 2007