Introduction - Emma Peterson of The Nada & Tikly
Vincent: Hey everybody, you’re listening to Fangagement. That’s #Fangagement, a new Hypebot rapid fire interview series for artists, entrepreneurs and aspiring entertainment industry folks. Now the goal of each interview is to explore with each other new and interesting ways to communicate with fans. We’ll highlight stories of triumph over struggle due to hard work, resilience, and thick skin.
My name is C. Vincent Plummer, and I’m a musician. But I’m also the co-founder of a new voting platform that uses photos, videos, and music called Bedloo.
That’s B E D L O O. Now we are working hard to make an awesome tool that artists can use to ask fans questions: fans vote and artists get stats. So check us out.
It’s fun, it’s free and we’ve got a site, an embeddable widget, and we’ve just launched an iPhone app. Ultimately it’s just great way to creatively get your people involved in the decision making process.
Now today, I am with Emma Peterson. She is the manager of a band called The Nadas and she is also a young entrepreneur who started a new online ticketing company called Tikly. She is also a big believer of direct-to-fan relationships. So without further ado let’s jump in.
Vincent: I’d like you to walk me through the early years when you started managing The Nadas. What did your early hustle look like?
Emma: I remember when I saw that The Nadas were looking on Twitter for some interns and I of course responded. This is back in the day when Twitter wasn’t just a bunch of noise.
Vincent: How old were you at this point?
Emma: I would say I was probably - I graduated from college when I was 20, so I would have been 20 years old. I was working for a video game company, interning for Authentic Records, which is The Nadas record label. Representing a couple of different artists, and doing some online stuff. And then I was touring on the weekends with The Nadas.
We went on an album release tour called “Almanac.” And, so we would hit the road on the weekends, and travel all throughout the US. Of course heavily regionally within the Midwest, but a little bit further every now and then.
So that meant that my initial endeavor in this world outside of college was two days in Cedar Falls, Iowa working as a marketing team member for the world’s largest video game producer, designer, and distributor in the casino genre, and two days in Des Moines working for record label, and three days on the road with The Nadas. We toured in Meat Loaf's old tour bus. That’s still says Meat Loaf on the front of it. So we get a lot of…
Vincent: Well you can’t take that down… I mean you travel with Meat Loaf on your van.
Emma: Yeah, absolutely. So we get a lot of people coming up to us at like truck stops and things, like, “Oh my God, are you really Meat Loaf?” “No, we’re The Nadas.” That’s how it all started.
Vincent: No, We’re selling meat loaf. We’re The Nadas, and we’re selling meat loaf on tour.
Emma: Exactly. Oh man, we’re always trying. We’re always looking for a buyer. But what ended up happening is that at the end of that summer of interning, they actually hired me to start working for them on what was my 21st birthday.
Growing Your Fanbase
Vincent: What were some of the strategies on how you grew your fanbase?
Emma: So one key thing The Nadas have done better than most of any other band that I know of is they have done an amazing job of building a community around what they do. It’s a very engaged community.
We’ve worked with Ariel Hyatt at Cyber PR to try and cast a wider net. That was incredibly helpful as far as reaching out to music platforms, and music writers that we otherwise may not have had a direct connection to.
When PledgeMusic was launched we immediately started working with PledgeMusic, because we’ve for again the last 20 years, already sort of done this stuff.
The Nadas when were a younger band, they used to send out… they’d mail out newsletters to their fans. They would write all the content and they would have funny little photos and feature stories and they would mail those to their fans throughout the US. That’s how they really did an excellent job of developing their markets.
The term that never escapes us is that we seem to be everywhere we go. Basically everyone’s favorite local band, despite being from Des Moines, Iowa. Denver Colorado loves us, looks us up, Evergreen, Colorado, D.C.
There are just all these incredible fans everywhere we go, because Mike and Jason, the lead singers of The Nadas, have always done a very good job of treating their fans effectively like in far or less sexy terms, their clients.
Like they want to make sure their clients are happy. They want to make sure they’re accessible to their clients. They want to make sure that when good things happen they celebrate that with them.
When bad things may happen, ticketing fees seem abusive; that they can approach that and deal with that. That their fans or their clients don’t feel like they’ve just been left out in the dust, and that we just need you to buy our CDs. No, there’s so much more than that.
Before I was a part of their story, they were very quick to it with Twitter and Facebook. When this funny little thing called Pandora came out, they were immediately involved with Pandora to the point that we got direct reports back and forth between Tim Westergren and Jason, just learning about how all this stuff is supposed to work.
So one thing that I’ve taken away that I think is most valuable of what they do is that they truly do run their band like a business. They make sure that their players that they hire are paid a reliable amount of money.
They make sure their fans feel like the band itself is accessible. They make sure that their brand as a whole, whether that means putting together funny videos, or releasing music, posting on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, whatever that might manifest as, that that stuff is there – that there is still this friction that exists, that increases the interest from the fans.
That’s one key reason I’ve always really liked them. I’ve always been able to find information about them, and to learn, and be a part of their story.
Offering Live Show Recordings
Vincent: Talk just briefly about some of the other creative marketing techniques that you guys have used along the way… that has had a pretty good return for you guys.
Emma: Absolutely. So one thing that we’ve done to the point that our fans almost get disappointed with us when we don’t is we have always recorded our live shows and allowed people to buy them. Because if you are able to take a piece of the show with you, then that’s super interesting.
So we’ve toured with this 6 disc burner that our sound guy records us, and he listens to it briefly. If it sounds pretty okay...
Vincent: Kind of bootleg each show.
Emma: ...yeah then we sell the show to our fans as they head out.
It’s kind of like you may need order too. Like if you want just the first set, you can have the first set. If you ask your girlfriend to marry you or something, then we might have that recorded.
For a stint there, our recording machine, whatever it’s called, our 6 disc burner was broken, and that was super stressful a little bit. Because most our fans were like, “I need it.”
They are willing to pay good money for it, because your fans what they want to do is they want to be a part of your story. They want to hold on to whatever it is you’re able to give them, whether that could be t-shirt, or a setlist, or a burned copy of the CD. They understand that their way of acquiring that, if not for free, is through money.
Forming Authentic Records
Vincent: Let’s talk about their record label. Talk to me about the decision for them to start that label. I noticed one of their sites saying, “Authentic Records is indefinitely on hiatus while the music industry figures itself out.” I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.
Emma: Yeah. So how that all works is that, Mike and Jason in 1998 started this little record label called Authentic Records. It’s a beautiful name. It’s a beautiful logo and it’s a fantastic label overall, definitely an independent smaller label.
But the thing is this, is that they brought on, I think maybe 20 artists throughout the duration of this endeavor. Well all of them were incredible, but some of them didn’t want to tour very much.
Well, if The Nadas, really Mike and Jason with Authentic Records, are going to take money out of their own pockets and hand it to “Vincent’s awesome band” to create a CD. Then go on tour and sell that CD, you have recoup on the investment, as the label world works, before you’re going to be able to make another album.
These 2 guys running a label aren’t going to be in a position to just keep perpetually bankrolling albums.
So with that in mind, that was a very quick way to realize who was going to maintain with the label, and who was going to be, “You know we try and it worked -or- we tried and it didn’t work.”
So what the label is today… and I might be misusing this term, but I always call it a vanity label, because we work with The Nadas, which is the flagship label. Then we’ve got Benjamin Wagner, who is the Vice President of MTV on our label.
Then we’ve got the brothers, Todd and Toby Pipes who make up Deep Blue Something "Breakfast at Tiffany's". Their solo careers were on Authentic Records.
Jason LeVasseur who wins these awards every year for being a college campus musician. He just tours around and plays on college campuses and does very, very well, and continues to grow his career.
Vincent: He does that with NACA?
Emma: It’s like AP Magazine or something like that. He runs a program; I don’t know if you’d call it a program, maybe it’s a campaign called the Rock Star Project. So he goes in during like college welcome weeks and stuff, inspires kids and plays amazing music.
Now we’re at a point where we still have relevant individuals on our label. But The Nadas themselves, which were the source of the cash that was made available to the label, they’re no longer actively putting money into other artists. Instead it’s like a brotherhood of all of us who just keep putting that Authentic Records stamp on all of our materials that we put out there.
So it’s still a thing, but we’re definitely taking pause while we figure out cool and interesting ways to go about the label thing. We get offers all the time to buy the label from us. We just think that there is so much opportunity with it once things kind of settle down.
We’re big fans of PledgeMusic, and great friends of those guys... We see really cool opportunities there. So we’re going to hold on to it for now, but it’s definitely been worth it’s while. But now we just got kind of smart Alec website.
Involving fans with decisions
Vincent: How important do you think fan interaction is with the decision making process for what the bands do? Do you think them being a part of the decision making process typically leads for more engagement, and more rate of return as far as converting the sales?
Emma: A little bit of both. Like yes, absolutely, because I have found that our fans are definitely the kind of fans that will put their money where their mouth is. We get booked for house concerts all the time. And it’s not a house concert; let’s see what sort of money we’ll make.
It’s, “You guys need to be paid X amount, right?” “Yes, that’s how much we need to be paid.” “Okay, we’ll make that happen. Please get out here, and attend our house concert, and sing a song for us.”
So of course there is a definite… like we’ve never been like led blindly, or led into a dark by our fans by any means. But that being said, there is also something about like creating a product, an album, whatever that has an essence of surprise, or intrigue.
Like for example, we didn’t ask our fans if we should make a kid’s album. We just knew that after 20 years, our fans had definitely gone from being college kids, like the bands guys, to being parents, like the band guys, and that they probably had kids that would like to listen to music. And similar to us, we didn’t really like the current offerings for kids, and so, we made a kid’s album and it sold incredibly well.
Because we knew who we were creating a product for and it was an amazing little Christmas time release that everyone went nuts over. And like I said, that was a complete surprise to our fans but it was received very well.
Creating a Tikly
Vincent: Talk to me about the decision to create Tikly. So everybody that’s out there that’s not familiar with the service, I’d love for you to briefly describe the value proposition of why somebody would want to use you guys for ticketing.
Emma: So Tikly is the artist focused, fan friendly ticketing platform. All online, free to use, no contract. It increases revenues for bands, and it feels good for everyone involved.
The reason why I developed Tikly… I decided to start this company is because as I mentioned earlier, I was touring with The Nadas for about a year and every venue owner we would work with would complain about X, Y, or Z ticketing company they were working with. Anything from Ticketmaster, to Ticketfly, to more local “me too” ticketing companies.
But similarly the artists would also say, “Yeah why haven’t I ever had a positive experience?” Then the worst of it all was that our fans would say, “Of course we want to buy tickets to your show, but why is there $5 more to buy in advance than it is at the door?”
Us, The Nadas, as entrepreneurs, as business owners, as people who are trying to manage a brand and keep our fans, our clients happy thought, “I don’t know why. I have no idea why that’s true, and that really sucks that it’s true.”
At one point when I was interning for The Nadas I got kind of angry email from a more local ticketing company here, where we had been selling tickets just through our website, not through Tikly, but through the Authentic Records website.
Their responses was basically a cease and desist, I mean how could you do this to me, and all this different stuff. I thought well.
Vincent: A cease and desist was for you guys selling your own tickets on your website?
Emma: Yeah. But we had rented out the venue and we were paying for security, we were paying for the port-a-potties, like everything. It was this outdoor party and this ticketing company was definitely in the wrong. But we weren't about to like sue them, or something.
So instead we said “Okay, that’s super weird. Just so you know our fans are all very upset. This isn't okay and we don’t appreciate it.” I was an intern at the time. So I thought, “Why am I getting in an angry email from a company that should be on our side. Like in theory all ships should rise here. If one of us is doing well, we should all be doing well.”
While I was touring with The Nadas every weekend, I just found that that was not a unique circumstance unto ourselves. This wasn’t just like weird happenstance with The Nadas, but instead it was actually industry standard.
Where there were all these ticketing companies that instead of trying to make a better business, they just thought if Ticketmaster can charge $10 on a $15 ticket, well then it only makes good sense that I would charge $6 instead of $10, because now I am better than Ticketmaster.
Well what I see that as is, you’re choosing to be the lesser of 2 evils, and that’s not good business. That’s not innovative. That’s not considerate of any of the parties involved.
At the end of the day ticketing companies don’t own any tickets. They’re not their tickets. So there is no show, if there is no venue, then there is no need for a ticket.
So from my perspective there’s this completely backwards perception on behalf of the ticketing companies. Not so much to their own fault, but in fact just because Ticketmaster defined how things were going to work, and that’s held on true.
Now the good news is that in April of 2011 I launched Tikly. Then in June of 2011, I believe it was FAST Company that named Ticketmaster “The Most Hated Brand in the Entire World.” So that was affirming for us, I should say at least my parents, “oh maybe she knows what she is talking about here.” But there is just so much opportunity there.
Forward Facing Data
Vincent: Do you guys provide forward facing data to artists… like where the tickets are coming from and emails? Is that maybe part of the product roadmap for the future? Any of that stuff?
Emma: Absolutely. So currently what you can find on our website is as 100 people buy tickets to your show, you’ll find the guest list information, which the basic information is first, and last name, email and mobile phone if applicable.
Now we also allow you to ask questions though. Where did you hear about us? What is your favorite color? You can even allow people to buy a song in advance, if you want to have a song dedication, or something.
I have some artists that build out their entire set list based off of songs requested through the presales via Tikly.
Now with our next iteration of our platform which is launching before the end of this year, we will have more in depth analytics as far as where do these ticket sales come from without having to ask them. Where do they come from?
Vincent: Right… based on who is logging in from various IP addresses and all that kind of stuff?
Emma: Yeah. Even we can take it one step further and go ahead and say, You and I, Vincent are selling tickets to a show for The Nadas. It’s at Vaudeville Mews in Des Moines, Iowa. While you and I are the promoters, The Nadas have their URL, and they all face the same event.
But we can see that Vincent sold 80 tickets through his efforts, and Emma only sold 20 tickets. What was she doing? And then The Nadas 100 tickets. So the system itself will provide those reports, and allow us to basically have a better understanding of the success of promoters as well as the various players in one event.
Ticket Bundling & Other Creative Methods
Vincent: What kind of ways have you guys seen artists use ticketing to compliment fan engagement with rewards, or VIP exclusives or things like that?
Emma: Yeah. It’s been incredible because I thought I had some good ideas from my band and then all these bands I work with, over 200 of them at this point they just come up with the most brilliant ideas.
So you mentioned bundling for example… One key thing that I determined was a real issue with the ticketing industry was that, not only had these other ticketing companies kind of taught people to not buy in advance, because it was way too expensive, so just buy at the door. But as a result you needed to provide better incentives to go ahead and engage in that moment.
So you could kind of like almost relearn a behavior. So what we do at Tikly as an addition to the presale of tickets, we also run a presale merchandise, of which most of our clients, and what we would recommend, go ahead and fulfill these merchandise purchases at the show.
So now when I’m a fan and I’ve bought a ticket to go see your band, Vincent, and I also bought a t-shirt, size small in my favorite color. Then I might be able to walk up straight to the merch table and say, “Hey I’m Emma Peterson, I already bought my t-shirt.” Sure enough the merch person can turn around and say, “Here is it.” And maybe it’s got a little thank you note with it.
Or maybe you could sell a CD in advance that’s a signed CD. Well now instead of it just being a signed CD, maybe you take the time in the bus, or the van, or whatever transportation you have to go ahead and say, “Hey Emma thanks so much for all of your support.”
Maybe you will list that as a discount to further incentivize them to buy in advance, but maybe you don’t. Traditionally my bands, if they sell a CD for $15 normally, they’ll then say, “Buy your regular CD at the show for 15, or buy a signed CD for 12 alongside your ticket.”
Beyond that we also allow you to sell just anything. So I have some people who will pre-sale their setlist. I have some people who, as I mentioned earlier will pre-sale songs.
So they’ll build up an entire set list by saying to a person, “Great if you buy a ticket in advance for $5 you can buy a song on the set list and you get 140 characters,” as Twitter has made really relevant, “To go ahead and dedicate it to somebody.”
So a band can be in the middle of a set and then say, “This next song goes out to Vincent Plummer, because it’s your birthday, happy birthday.” Maybe there is like a joke in there, or something, and then they play it.
Now not only did the fan have a positive experience, but now you’re further connected. It’s like an amazing story. Because my key thing with Tikly is to make sure that if the first step towards supporting an event is buying a ticket, that needs to be a positive one.
If the artist, the venue owner whomever might be selling that ticket can dream up in their own way to make even more positive, then I want to, as a business owner, as a service provider, give them that ability.
The last thing we do when speaking about expanding this positivity I should say, is in addition to the pre-sale tickets, and in addition to the pre-sale merchandise, even if you’re a venue owner, the presale of drinks tickets if you like, we also allow you to accept donations in advance to a show.
So you can partner as an artist, the venue, whoever you might be, with a charitable group or nonprofit group of your choosing, and accept donations alongside those tickets.
So when I get out my credit card to buy $20 ticket and then you say “Vincent Plummer really supports the United Way of King County in Seattle, Washington, would be able or willing to make a donation, any further donation is much appreciated.” “Sure. Here is $2, here is $5, and here is $1,000.”
It’s just a way to make sure that we as a business are really allowing our clients, our ticket sellers, to accomplish all of their goals and take what the ticketing industry has been, and challenge it and say, “No, this is a positive thing. This is a good, good thing.”
Traction for Tikly & Plan for 2014
Vincent: Talk to me about the growth and where you guys have seen the most traction, and just briefly, if you can speak on some of your plans for 2014.
Emma: So as far as traction goes, majority of my artists are based out in kind of the Brooklyn New York area. Because I’ve the artists out there in the neck of the woods seem to truly kind of pay their rent, by making and selling music, and performing in live shows. So that’s where they tend to hang out the most. My venues are largely based in the Midwest area, and my festivals are largely on the West Coast.
Yeah. It’s a lot of fun. Of course we do have a heavy population of clients within the Midwest due to proximity to where I live. But as I mentioned, there is a lot of stuff beyond that.
So right now we are live in 40 states in 4 countries including the US, Australia, Ireland and Canada. Within the last iteration of our platform, in just 13 months, we sold over $1 million worth of tickets.
We just did an amazing tour with Mike Doughty of Soul Coughing, you know, Super Bon Bon. That was 35 dates throughout the US and Canada. And it went very, very well.
What he did is he presold general admission tickets as well as Sound Check party tickets, Sound Check party VIP tickets, which means you get a t-shirt as well. Then for every show he did on his tour he made one $1,000 ticket available to his fans to purchase that would get you admission to the show, admission to the Sound Check party, your t-shirt from the show and you get to hang out for 30 minutes on the tour bus with Mike Doughty, and you could bring one friend.
He sold quite a few of those. So the beautiful part there is that…
Vincent: Wait, so he sold a lot of the $ 1,000 tickets?
Emma: Yes, a lot.
Vincent: Wow. So all of that stuff and then hangout for 30 minutes, huh?
Emma: Yes, exactly. Well it’s kind of a golden ticket. The truth of the matter is that there are some fans out there that really want that experience.
Vincent: The Wonka Ticket…
Emma: It’s more than just a show. It’s more than just a band. It’s more than just some guy with a guitar.
It’s Mike Doughty of Soul Coughing. He is so cool, and I’d love to hangout for just 30 minutes, little things like that. For a lot of people out there, music is still something that they deem worthy of spending money on.
So Tikly kind of allows those individuals to step up and say “Yeah, for $100 I’d like to go to the sound check party, and get a t-shirt, and go to the general admission show, that’s great.”
Now the one thing I will mention about Doughty, just for context, is that he went ahead and did the model with us of pre-selling fan tickets. Which means that for every venue he played, whether it be at Ticketmaster, an AEG Live venue, Ticketfly venue, whatever it was… he sold 10% of the venue’s capacity through Tikly. The rest of it was left out to the venue.
But his opportunity was to gather that information you were talking about earlier and say, “Great, I just sold 180 or whatever that number might be, tickets to 1st Avenue in Minneapolis.”
Well, next time he comes through to do like one-off show or something like that, he now has 180 email addresses that he can send a note directly to that Tikly will never sell, or resell, or contact them directly through those channels either.
So… things are going quite well for us right now. As I mentioned to you, we’ve got our next platform, our next iteration if you will, of the platform launching here within about a month, or so.
It’s a brilliant, brilliant piece of software, and you can think about best like this. If we knew what we know now about 2 years ago when we got started, then this is what we would have built.
Vincent: It’s the same with us here at Bedloo… It’s like, you get going in one particular direction, and then you realize that fans are using it in a totally different way. Brands use it in a totally different way, and you’re like, “Oh!” Sometimes it’s validating, and sometimes you’re like, “Oh my God, all that money for development!” I totally understand.
Emma: Totally. So I’m very excited to unveil that. We’ve got a lot of feedback from our clients. So what you’ll see with the new platform is all the stuff that people already very much love about Tikly, plus a few other things. Including those promoter features, some more interesting social sharing features.
Nothing where we are going to pay you to share on Facebook because I don’t really believe in that model, but stuff where you can further your reach on the social media platforms.
Then of course we’re really kind of highlighting the ability to do that nonprofit charitable item, and just indicating that above and beyond, it’s just so darn easy.
So if you can raise $100 for the Animal Rescue League of Central, Iowa, or whatever that nonprofit might be. That we want to make so easy for our clients to go ahead and just say, “Yeah let’s do that.”
Common Mistakes Artist Make
Vincent: Awesome. So last thing. If you had a mega phone and you could talk to all of the independent artists out there about one common mistake… What would you tell them?
Emma: As much as I would like to use this opportunity to pitch my ticketing company, I would say that the No.1 mistake that I see independent artist, just artists in general really making is that they need to talk to their fans more.
Those people want to support you. They want to be a part of your story. They want to give you their money. They want to help you achieve your goals.
So when you get off stage at the end of a show, don’t just disappear. Don’t just talk to each other. Go over and talk to your fans, and who knows, maybe one of them is just rich off their rocker and could be your investor.
Or maybe some of them could be, me, how I got involved with The Nadas was largely born out of being a fan, that became a friend, that became an intern, and has now been their tour manager, and business manager.
That’s the same thing that goes for a lot of our other team members. They all started out as fans.
So there are people around you that want to help you and support you and see you and take you seriously. But if you don’t let them in, then they’re just going to walk out the door at the end of the night, and you’re never going to see them again.
Or maybe you will, but there is just so much lost opportunities out there for artists just because they want to go hang out in the green room, and not talk to their fans or something.
Fans want to be involved. In this day and age sure they can go ahead and download your music for free. Are they going to? Maybe. Are they going to burn CDs for their friends? Probably.
But if you give them opportunities to put their money where their mouth is, it’s like kind of the best way I can think of to say it. Then I would guess that most artists would be quite surprised and very pleased to see how willing fans are.
Look at the PledgeMusic world… If you’re giving them something to be engaged with and intrigued by, then you’ve got their ear for sure.
Vincent: Cool. Well this has been great. Once again this is C. Vincent Plummer (@cvpmusic) with Bedloo (@bedloo). This is Emma Peterson (@emmzzuh) of Tikly (@tikly) and also a manager for The Nadas (@thenadas).
Thank you very much for tuning in! We would love to hear your feedback. Please feel free to contact us using #fangagement on Twitter.
Catch you next time.