Band Marketing Study: Tigers that Talked

Tigers that Talked, a British band, was a co-winner, along with SONOIO, of Topspin’s grant competition held in March at SXSW.  Our longtime collaborator Mike King, Director of Marketing at and author of Music Marketing: Press, Promotion, Distribution, and Retail (Berklee Press, 2009), helped adjudicate and was impressed by the group’s marketing, its product and pricing strategies, and their approach to PR and overall communications. Other judges were industry heavyweights Rick Rubin, Marc Geiger, Richard Jones, Glenn Peoples, and Jennie Smythe.  What follows is a recent interview by King with Owain Kelly, bassist of Tigers that Talked.
Here’s a video the band created during their time in Austin:

Band Background

Mike King: Can you talk a little bit about the background of the band, your ideas for the campaign, and what you were trying to accomplish?

Owain Kelly: I got together with Jamie, Chris, and Glenna after graduating from school. We all just kind of came together and we really liked what we were doing.  We ended up signing to a local independent label. It was great at the time, but we recorded the album and the label essentially turned around and said that they couldn’t release it. Eventually, we got the rights to the album ourselves, because we were very proud of it and still wanted to release it.

MK: Were they not releasing it for creative reasons, or were they not releasing it for financial reasons?

OK: I think it was financial reasons. They are still a management company but no longer a label.  So we had this album that we finally got the rights to and decided that instead of searching for another label, we could release it ourselves. We just wanted to get the album out there to be heard. You know, was our debut album, and a lot of people worked very hard to pull it together.

Process: Doing it Yourself with Help

MK: So when you say you put it out there yourself, was it just the four of you that were responsible for all the marketing and sales initiatives, or did you have some other folks that were helping out?

OK: We also have our manager, Ritchie. We had a radio plugger for the campaign but we didn’t have a press plugger. We did all of our press ourselves.

MK: I want to get into what you did with press because I think it’s fascinating, but I’m interested in knowing what else you guys were doing yourselves. Didn’t you also create your website?

OK: Yeah, absolutely. Essentially, the way that came about was because of another economic restraint. We had this kind of holding page website which we’ve had for years when we first started the band, made by the same guy who did the album artwork. It was a very simple page that would redirect you to the label’s website and then to our MySpace; there were just two links on it. We decided that we needed something a bit more substantial and we just couldn’t afford to go and get someone else to do it. Eventually we kind of talked about it and decided,  “let’s just go for this and try and do it ourselves.” None of us had any form of web experience, no coding experience; only basic Photoshop knowledge. So we did a lot of online tutorials, chatted with friends who did a lot of web design. We just taught ourselves, and it took about a year’s worth of work to get something that we were happy with. We kind of succeeded in the primary goal of making a website in about three months; it just took another nine months of honing skills to actually get a decent looking website that we were all happy with.

MK: It’s something that people talk about a lot, the fact that it is difficult to be writing and recording music, producing your own music, and then doing all the marketing yourself. Did you find that you were stretched thin by doing all the press and all the web design and updates?

OK: I have to say, without kind of just wanting to pat them on the back, that it genuinely helps to have a service like Topspin involved to help with the direct communication with our fans. It is a lot of work, and it does take up a lot of time, but if you aren’t prepared to do that for your fans, then why are you even bothering to play the music? The fans are there, they want to hear from you, and I think the fans respond differently when they know that you’re making your own website and you’re doing all your own press. The more you can do yourself, the better. It’s really inspiring when you finish something you’ve done on your own, and while it might have taken you slightly longer than it would taken someone else to do it, I think it’s motivating to have a real stake in every aspect of your band as a business. With direct to fan interaction, we are getting the opportunity to tailor-make our entire future and to do it in response to the people that are making this happen for us. Of course, there is a really difficult side to all of this, but it’s exciting!

Email for Media Widget

Acquisition and PR Campaign

MK: Can you talk a little bit about the techniques you used to make folks aware of you, and how you acquired permission-based contact with new fans? How did you do this on your own site and on third party sites? OK:One of the big things we used for the acquisition stage of the campaign was the email-for-media (e4m) widget through Topspin. Three weeks before the album came out we created an e4m widget and put it in a really prominently place on our site. The idea was that it was the first thing fans and potential fans saw when they visited the site, and we exchanged a free track for an email address. Kind of simple stuff really. But we also used the e4m widgets in the wild, too. You know, anytime we approached anyone in the press, we tried to hit him or her with the widgets. If they were going to mention that an album was coming out, we’d ask them to embed the widget as well. And it worked! Using Topspin’s retrieved data we saw that the e4m widget we were using has been viewed almost 14,000 times, and from those views, the e4m was clicked around 1,500 times, acquiring more than 900 new emails alone in the process. These are all people that we can connect with for this current record, as well as records down the line.

MK: You also had a dedicated Electronic Press Kit and content page on your site that only press could access, right?

OK: Yeah, we had that as well. That was another thing–the press page that we set up on our site. I mean that again came up quite accidentally. We were just having a conversation and said, “You know what? We’ve got this page for the fans where they arrive on the site and they can instantly go to where we want them to go. Why don’t we make one too for the press?” So we hid a URL inside our site, where we embedded the full album and a link for the press to download both the full album, the press release, and our bios–everything that goes into a normal press release by email, except that this was a live URL feed so that they weren’t dealing with an email that just looked like the rest. The emails to our targeted press list were very short and to the point. We’d send them out and they essentially just had this link that said, “if you are interested in this band, here’s a press link”; if they clicked, it would take them to a fully dedicated page just for them, complete with a way to contact management and us, and help them explore the site downloads.

Tigers That Talked Press Page
Tigers That Talked Press Page

MK: How did you focus your press outreach?

OK: We did a couple of things. First, we looked at everyone we ever talked to back from the first EP that we released, and we targeted those folks with a really personalized email. It looked a lot less like a press email, and it was from our personal accounts. We’d email these folks and say, “Hey, we’ve got this album coming out. Here’s the album for free with the press download.” This approach was really successful actually, and we got some really good blogging about it. The second thing we did was that we created our own database from trolling through sites that we liked and pulling out email addresses of writers that we thought might like our music.

MK: Can you talk a little bit about the results? I know you were touring at the time. Were you getting more record release press or tour press?

OK: It was more record release press and we had a few tour presses, mainly for the lead show. We did an album launch show at one of the local venues and we had a few reviewers come down and do that. We also had quite a few interviews – one of the biggest local leads did a full cover feature on us and we had another full-length interview. We’ve done some other things with press, like the PRS and the Amazing Radio acoustic sessions. If you approach your campaign in a personal way, the quality of the press hits can give you longevity.

Sales Strategy

MK: So you’ve got some momentum with press and live events, you are building up your permission-based contacts, and you’re engaging with your fans regularly. Can you talk a little bit about the ideas behind your graduated pricing campaign and your variable product offerings?

OK: Late last year, we released our album, The Merchant on a graduated pricing model. We did a four-week graduated pricing campaign where the price of the record ranged from £1.00 if you purchased early, up to £4.00. So the first week you could get it for £1.00, the second week you could get it for £2.00, third week for £3.00, fourth week for £4.00. We really wanted to reward the fans that had waited months between the recording and the release of the record. We just wanted to make it incredibly cheap so that anyone who was already a fan, and who was waiting for the album to come out, could get the record for the lowest price possible. Along side of the digital release, we were selling a T-shirt as well as the physical CD. We sold the CD for £5.00 and the T-shirt for £12.00. We also created another bundle, at £15.00, which was the digital downloads, the CD, and the t-shirt together.

It was interesting to see that 58% of total revenue from the campaign came from the first week when we were offering a £1.00 digital download, and the average purchase on the site ended up being £4.48. So a lot of fans were buying some of our more expensive items. Overall, 18% of purchasers opted for the more expensive options we provided.

We followed The Merchant release with a ‘pay-what-you-want’ EP called Battles, featuring exclusive tracks, remixes and four pieces of graphic art we designed ourselves. We offered a variety of suggested donations, from £1.00 up to £25.00. We found that 70% of fans opted to pay more than the lowest suggested price of £1.00, while the highest option of £25.00 accounted for 48% of our total revenue.

Battles EP Donation Release Strategy
Battles EP Donation Release Strategy

Communication Strategy

MK: Can we talk a little more about how you are communicating with folks? There was obviously some demand for this record, even though there was a lag between the recording and the release. How did you maintain this interest through messaging and communication?

OK: We run our own website, so all the blog posts come from us and we try and write at least one blog a week. We don’t like to bombard fans with emails. We don’t ever want to be an irritation for them so we try to send out about one email to the list maybe once a month, where we’ll say what we’ve been up to, what we are going to do next, that kind of thing. Facebook has been a great channel for us as well. We’re on our Facebook page all the time and all the posts on the Facebook come directly from us. We’ve found it to be a great way to have a direct and immediate participatory relationship with our fans.

Our overall strategy is that we’re all music fans at the end of the day, and we know what irritates us and we know what really inspires us, and what captures our imagination, and it’s just a case of looking at that and putting yourself in your fan’s shoes. You know, I wouldn’t want to have an email everyday, not even from my favorite band; barely every week. Once a month with what’s going on is a nice level of email communication. I also think it’s important for us to make sure our fans know that the Facebook and the Twitter posts all come direct from us. They are not talking to a representative or a PR agent; they are getting to hear what we’re actually saying and what were actually doing. It’s just brilliant that there are plenty of mediums now where you can reach your fans so directly.

Check out more on Tigers that Talked here

By Mike King