[This spotlight was originally posted on the Topspin Media blog on April 4, 2012.]
Continuing our Partner Spotlight series, this post details how longtime Topspin friends and partners Music Geek Services deliver high-quality work to their artists. Thanks to Chandler and Jay for being excellent at promoting their artists with Topspin!
Who are you and what do you do?
Music Geek Services is an artist services firm, run by brothers Jay Coyle and Chandler Coyle. Our primary focus is to help artists create a strong and deep connection with their fan-base by super-serving those fans. To that end, we offer a variety of digital marketing and consulting services including: Web Development, Online Fan Development/Interaction, Direct-to-Fan Campaign Strategy and Execution and Topspin Consulting and Training. We also do Product Development/Consulting, Social Media Consulting, Project Management and even Artist Management.
You guys have been around as a company for quite a while. Talk us through the history of MGS and how it came about.
Jay Coyle (Music Geek): I founded the company in 2008 after leaving a sales/marketing position at EMI CMG in Nashville. My first project was as the band archivist and product development lead for the 20+ year Canadian music veterans, Barenaked Ladies. While working on that project I was turned onto Topspin. I have since spent the last four years by supporting other artists on many levels – such as sales & marketing, artist management, artist development, business development, tour manager, and product management.
The Topspin platform became a part of my toolset very early on. I was seeking out a way to sell direct to fans while working with the Barenaked Ladies in 2008. With BNL we did utilize Topspin to sell some live recordings. By June 2009, when Topspin offered their first official, public training course in Santa Monica, I had started working as part of Sloan’s management team. So I came out to the Topspin office and was formally training on the platform alongside future Topspin creative services employees, Nicole St. Jean and Parker Todd Brooks, and future Topspin Berklee instructor and Concord Music Group exec, Jason Feinberg. By Fall of 2009, I launched a Topspin-integrated store for Sloan and have been Topspin evangelist, ever since.
Chandler Coyle (Digital Geek): After spending ten years running a web development firm serving the nonprofit sector, and many other things before that, I was always hearing about Jay’s work with his various clients and projects. The more I heard about the direct-to-fan model and especially the Topspin platform, I became very interested. Eventually, I decided Jay was having too much fun working with bands and he could use my assistance. So, in 2010 I quit my job and joined Music Geek Services, full-time. I have a background in logistics and marketing and a passion for music and digital marketing tools, which was a perfect complement to what Jay was already doing. To get up to speed with Topspin, quickly, I took the Berklee Topspin course in the Summer of 2010 and have used it consistently, since then. I’m fairly active in the Topspin power-user community and started a blog called TopspinTips.com that I hope will eventually become a resource for other users new to Topspin. I love turning folks on to Topspin. In fact, I am now set to teach the Berklee Topspin course this coming session.
Does Music Geek Services cater to a specific type of artist?
Jay: We are fortunate to have worked with different levels of artists, from brand new acts all the way to established/veteran artists. Personally, I think our age and fan insight from being a lifelong music geek and omnivorous music consumer affords us a deeper toolkit to use for those more seasoned, heritage acts with deeper catalogs and longer history. One challenge that we really get excited about is re-energizing the fan-base of an artist who was popular before the age of the internet and direct-to-fan or has never taken care to build up a mailing list, of which they had control. So, often it is taking a known act and getting them up-to-speed with the new direct-to-fan best practices. Basically helping them rebuild their email list and coming up with creative product and project ideas for new, or renewed, revenue streams.
How have you seen the direct-to-fan space grow since you’ve been involved?
Jay: When I was first talking to Topspin and getting onto the platform, I felt like I was speaking some unknown language to a lot of my peers in Nashville or while on the road with Sloan. But thanks to some amazing projects Topspin has worked with by so many different big name artists (Paul McCartney, Beastie Boys, Nine Inch Nails) I have seen the term direct-to-fan become very much part of the new music business. I do not have to explain to someone what direct-to-fan is anymore. Now I just spend my time explaining how to set it up and execute it properly.
I’m an artist and I would like to use Topspin. What is it that MGS is going to actually do for me?
Jay: We are going to train you how to get set-up on the platform and how to execute projects and products properly through “best practices”. That could be a simple consulting role or soup-to-nuts webpage build with Topspin set-up and product launch.
Do you have a standard approach for a band that wants to work with you but doesn’t have specific direct-to-fan goals in mind?
Chandler: It is pretty common to have artists or managers that know they need to be connecting with and selling directly to fans but haven’t formulated how or with what type of scope. In those cases we will take a step back and do a full audit of the artist’s email list, music catalog, merch inventory, digital touch-points and assets, and current timeline for past/upcoming releases and tours. Then based on the time, resources, and budget, we propose an appropriate strategy and tactical plan of action to get the artist up and running on the Topspin platform and have all their digital assets, like website, Facebook page, etc, in sync with the strategy.
Jay: A perfect example of this was one of our first and still current client, Sloan. Back in 2009 I started things off in a measured way to be able to not introduce too many new things and give me and the band time to get used to this newfangled thing, direct-to-fan. At the time, our primary focus was to build up their very stale email list and generate some new revenue by streaming and offering for digital download, the entire Sloan back catalog. It wasn’t long before I was working with the band to create completely new products to sell direct to fans, once they realized how much enthusiasm was out there in their fan base to connect, support, and actually buy stuff from Sloan.
One last thing, we also offer tailored, one-on-one Topspin training sessions. If you are looking to get up to speed very quickly, we can do a 1-2 hour “deep dive” training session using your actual data. So you can learn and move your getting on the Topspin platform, forward. We can do this as an one-time on-demand thing or as an ongoing thing. This has worked out well with artists who have a limited budget and just need some expert assistance rather than having us run their whole campaign.
If an up-and-coming artist had $5,000 to invest in their business, how would you recommend they spend that money?
Jay: We would be sure that they think of a big-picture approach and take the time and money to create the proper website, maybe just even a one-page micro-site, and Facebook page, and other relevant digital assets. Then with those finely-tuned tools in place, use them to gain fans, communicate with those fans and super-serve their needs. Over time, with authentic action on the band’s part, those fans will want to continue their relationship and support the artist by buying music, sharing music with their friends, and coming to see the artist live. Connecting with fans and allowing that natural relationship to grow is the best thing any artist, be it old or new, can do. The $5k should be spent making sure you have set up and maintain the proper mechanism to do exactly that.
Music Geek Services is available for consultations and would love to learn about your project. Contact them by visiting their website here: http://musicgeekservices.com/.