Fairly Trill was born last summer, in classic entrepreneurial fashion. Marketers Michael Lovett and Chris DeLine realized they each had a series of skills the sum of which might be greater than the individual parts. “I’ve spent most of my professional life in a contorted game of Twister,” laughs Lovett. “One hand in music, one in business, and a foot in tech. Chris is also in tech and music, plus is an amazing writer. People need help maximizing what they do online, so the company was born to help strategize and achieve audience development.” [Trill: slang for true and real.]
Lovett had been in Nashville for about three years building web sites for folks like the First Amendment Center with his company Phat Magnet Media. Previously, he earned an MBA at Wilmington University and worked as Chief Marketing Officer for a swimming pool and spa distributor where he pioneered an online B2B marketing and ordering system.
DeLine was founder/editor of the award-winning music review blog, Culture Bully that he started in 2006 and divested in 2012. He has also contributed to numerous media outlets such as Esquire, HuffPost Live and Smoking Section.
The following discussion highlights the marketing philosophy of the Fairly Trill founders and explores their unique approach to solving problems.
NEKST: You describe yourselves as narrators who craft stories and then spread them online. A great low-tech way to describe a high-tech strategy…Explain?
Michael Lovett: Everyone has an experience, a story that fits along a time line or an arc. What engages an audience is how you tell it. For example, our client Meghan Linsey was on Can You Duet, then got a deal with Big Machine, charted with a successful duo (Steel Magnolia) and ultimately faced drama and tensions. Finally, she’s standing up as a solo act saying, “I’m going to walk that road by myself.” There are a million hooks in that story depending upon whose attention you are trying to get. But you’re spinning your wheels to do a record until you’ve got people who care about your story. Where do you come from? What do your songs mean to you? Who are you? What do you think your audience will see in you? What do you want them to see? Critical in this pantheon of storytelling and audience development is remembering at the other side of every email, tweet or Facebook post is a real person. Don’t be short sighted, you’re not just putting out a record, you’re launching a career.
NEKST: Should others besides labels and artists consider story building?
Michael Lovett: Music publishers who are actively investing money in writer/artists should also be concerned about growing those brands. The day after they make an offer to a new writer they should begin crafting the story. It makes good business sense. We’re in the middle of a changing of the guard and the future of the industry will reward those that think ahead.
NEKST: So how do you spread the story?
Michael Lovett: After helping create the story arc our job is to find people interested in that story. A lot of that is data-driven. I like to ask an artist who their favorite artists are and who they think they sound like. That gives us a place to start digging. We’ll begin to see a base, a macro face of what their fans look like and where they are. Then we start giving them pieces of the story. With Meghan’s current video we targeted the largest country music outlets—Taste of Country and The Boot, plus other channels like Jessica Northey’s CM Chat live.
Chris Deline: We realize how many press releases these sites receive. So we sent them ready-to-go content in story form. We also attached links to press clippings that could be used to customize the story. The response was overwhelming.
NEKST: After you mold the story into sharable form what about social media?
Michael Lovett: We have our daily social media ‘crisis of faith’ because you have to allow for the natural inclination of the artist. Do they like Instagram, Facebook or Twitter? Meghan likes Facebook, but wasn’t very active so we developed a calendar of daily things to talk about. We also did research via Facebook Insights to see what types of posts got the most reaction. The idea was to create a routine, consistent voice and type of interaction. Recently, for #womancrushwednesday we asked Meghan to give us a picture and quote. She sent a picture with the caption, “Dear God, if I ever get pregnant let me look like Gwen Stefani.” I wanted something more engaging, perhaps a question, but I can’t manufacture it. And every post, if authentic, tells the audience something about that person and perhaps builds energy for the next post. Each post is like one small reflector on a chandelier. When you stand back it reflects the light and is beautiful.
NEKST: Do lists play into your strategy?
Michael Lovett: Absolutely. The younger demo is not as fond of email as we may like, they may be more comfortable using text. Fine. We want someone to sign up because they like what we are offering. Beating people over the head doesn’t work. If someone drops into the artist’s circle from Facebook, Twitter or YouTube we guide them to the web site where we can ask for their email. Everything must connect because the list remains a hugely important direct way to personalize a mass media message.
Chris Deline: If buying one of those spam lists with a billion emails worked, we could throw them all against the wall see what stuck. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.
Michael Lovett: So we’re priming press outlets to make it rain, but need to be ready to capture that interest. When The Boot published a blurb about Meghan’s One Republic cover and LeAnn Rimes retweeted it, that was rain. Luckily we were ready, our systems were in place. There’s also customer care throughout the process. When somebody offers their email, respond with a thank you. Sending multiple responses where you keep offering small pieces of the story can be effective. After hitting that first level of social media saturation you become the guy shouting at the people in the room. The next challenge is to expand the walls around your Facebook crowd and get others to join. Maybe the artist calls another artist and suggests a YouTube duet. By bringing together two brands that fans may not associate with each other, it creates overlap and everyone can win. That’s when the Internet does its job by being the crowd under the crowd surfer.
NEKST: What’s the difference between the story and branding?
Michael Lovett: Branding is the elevator pitch, the quick-off like “Coke—it’s the real thing.” The story is, “Coke was invented in Atlanta in a pharmacy and it’s one of the first soda drinks to…” The brand is the first digestible piece, the story is then used to identify and cultivate the brand.