On July 6th, we tried a new type of interview–live on Facebook–with Gavin Slate. (You remember him–he made himself the Starbucks Pick of the Week!) Connecting with an artist right on our Page worked out really well, and made it possible for fans to ask him questions, too! Here’s a recap of what we chatted about:
ATMP: We’ll start things off with a basic question–how did you get started in music, and how long have you been performing?
GS: I started playing music at a very young age. I grew up with 3 sisters and we always used to sing around the house to things like the Beach Boys and the Everly Brothers. All that stuff with a lot of harmonies. I’ve been playing for as long as I can remember, I sang backups on a studio album when I was about 12 and started playing in bands shortly thereafter.
ATMP: So you’ve obviously been around music for a long time! When would you say you started really using social media and creative marketing tactics to get your music heard?
GS: Oh man, well, I was a fairly large scale computer nerd growing up as well. I used to play a lot of Team Fortress Classic and Counterstrike (look them up haha). So I used to get some folks that I played with asking about my tunes and such, that was when I was playing in punk bands. When I started playing the more acoustic stuff, I would send friends Mp3 files over ICQ. I kept it old school.
That was around the same time as Napster and such. So I think at the time it was moderately new/creative to be sending files like that…
ATMP: Oh absolutely. Since you were ahead of the curve with filesharing, and because you were so comfortable with a computer from a young age, do you think that’s helping you with marketing (both social media and offline) today? Obviously, someone who is less talented with graphic design wouldn’t have been able to imitate the Starbucks Pick of the Week cards.
GS: Yes, I certainly do feel that has helped. I have always been very comfortable with social media and computers. For the cards themselves I actually sought out help from another friend of mine who is a bit better at Photoshop than I am, but I can hold my own. But I think when you are 100% comfortable with something, whether it be design, music, social media etc. it gives you the opportunity to think outside the box. It’s very, very difficult to think outside the box if you’re still trying to learn how to post an event on Facebook.
Fan Question: In a recent interview, you described success as: “I think just being comfortable is all. Being able to be a full-time musician day in, day out. It’s the only real way to get better at what you do. We can probably assume that the best lawyer in the world didn’t have to work a part-time job at Starbucks while he practiced. You need to be able to treat art as seriously as any other job.” Many Canadian artists, including you, Robyn Dell’Unto, Peter Katz, Jeremy Fisher, Hey Ocean, Craig Cardiff devote an unbelievable amount of time, energy, “blood, sweat & tears” in an effort to making a full-time career out of your music. What can we do to promote those artists who don’t necessarily aspire to hockey arena-sized shows, but have incredible talent that should be shared with more than just the Summer music festival and small venue crowd?
GS: I think it all starts with sharing the music with as many people you know. Creating that buzz in your city. I recently got asked to play a show in Oil City, PA. I had never been there in my life, but a fan down there asked if I would come down for a show. I was a little skeptical, only because I didn’t think anyone would know the music, having never played their city before. When I got to the venue, there ended up being about 60-70 people there that he had played the music for and they all came up because he promoted it. I’ve already got another show planned for Oil City in the fall, so I think that’s how it all starts!
And really minimizing expenses as well. Playing a house show to 20 people you know with a $10 cover is one of the most fun ways to do it as an acoustic musician and it really helps to keep the costs down. Especially if you have a comfortable couch to crash on.
ATMP: You’re making a lot of great points–I think artists definitely need to be comfortable with what they are doing to be able to be creative. And, also, with social media and music marketing especially, it’s such a changing platform that there are constantly new things to learn and new ways to go about using it. You’re a great example of that!
How has your creative Starbucks strategy affected your online presence and your downloads?
GS: It has been exponential! Completely overwhelming. My actual plan for this whole project didn’t even involve people going to download the song itself. I just wanted people to see the card in Starbucks and then eventually Google the name at some point to check out the music. It was about exposures, but almost immediately after putting the cards in the store, the downloads started to come.
ATMP: That’s fantastic! I’m sure now that your story is getting out there, we’re going to start seeing more bands do similar things. Do you have any advice for other indie musicians trying to market themselves?
GS: I think as an artist/band you really should try to stay away from doing ‘similar things’. Or, if you’re going to do something similar to someone else, make sure you do it the best it has been done. My advice is to create ideas that are engaging and motivating to those who you’re targeting. Most importantly, don’t listen to any naysayers, because with any good idea, someone is going to try to tell you it can’t be done.
ATMP: I know Gavin’s got to head out; thank you so much for doing this! Everyone, be sure to go Like Gavin Slate’s Page to stay up to date with everything he’s doing! And of course, download his album for FREE at http://www.gavinslate.com/
GS: Thank you guys, always great to see people supporting the independent music scene. Also, if you’re around a TV this Thursday check out the tune ‘Falling’ in this week’s episode of the new NBC show ‘Saving Hope’!
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