By Hilke Ros, musician and manager of the Belgian band Amatorski.
A couple of years ago I was only a musician who got interested in the opportunities of the internet. I discovered the power of social networks for artists who want to connect with their fans, I learned how the internet is changing the relationships between players in the music industry and how a DIY approach is now more and more a viable economic solution for artists.
The last three years I have been having the luck to be part of a band who became a successful act in our own country, Belgium. Although we own a lot of our success to the enthusiasm of some Belgian radio stations and magazines, we also deliberately followed a DIY path, keeping a lot in our own hands. We still don't have an external manager. We work with agents for live bookings. We used to have only a distribution label for physical distribution in Belgium and The Netherlands. Some months ago we decided to sign a deal with an international label Crammed Discs to broaden our reach.
Building good relationships with our fans has always been an important part of our approach. We make quite intimate music and are also rather introvert people, which means that we don't really engage into extensive and exuberant conversations with the audience on stage. We rather have personal chats at the merch table and we build relationships online, maintaining our natural image of fragility, mystery and artistic creativity.
Our latest project, Deleting Borders, is our most ambitious project to connect with fans. At deletingborders.com you can make your own personal version of our new song 'How Are You?' by putting dots on a picture. It works like a music sequencer: you switch sounds on and off and create your own arrangement of the song. At the same time you create a unique, beautiful visual to accompany the music, and you can upload your own Facebook photos to give your creation the ultimate, personal touch.
1. Crossing the borders of your artist comfort zone
I have been following a lot of blogs about new music marketing and innovative, interactive music marketing ideas. However, while we were brainstorming about Deleting Borders, we wanted to go a step further. A lot of creative marketing projects already have the music finished, when they set up the project. The creative and interactive marketing idea is elaborated as a next step, after creating the music. We wanted to rethink the creative process and we wanted to include the idea of interaction with our fans earlier in the process. This meant that we had to break out from our normal comfort zone as artists.
We didn't write a song and then started to think how we could market it in an original way. At the beginning of the project, we sat together with the software developers from We Work We Play and we decided about what we were going to do. We came up with the idea of the online music sequencer and we started to work on that idea together in our studio. Amatorski focused on the music and the guys of We Work We Play started coding and working out the visual part.
In a way we re-invented ourselves as artists. We didn't see ourselves as musicians hooking up with some web guys to create a good marketing campaign for our music. We co-created a project which actually aimed for co-creation with our fans. Of course, the project also had clear marketing goals. However, we tried to encapsulate our marketing goals in our artistic creation process. This means that the borders between creating the art and marketing the art product also became quite blurred.
2. Crossing the borders between art disciplines
It already became clear that we don't see Deleting Borders as a pure music project. It is a combination of music, visual art, web art, etc. We really bring together the musical talents of Amatorski and the software coding and visual talents of We Work We Play. This has also clear advantages for reaching new audiences. The project got lots of attention in the creative web design and software coding world, because it also includes some cutting edge technology (the site is completely HTML5-based). It was mentioned by Google Chrome Experiments and by an important software engineer from Google. That drove a lot of new people from the whole world to Amatorski's music.
On the other hand, the project was featured during a prime time television program on Belgian national TV and Valentijn from We Work We Play had the opportunity to show off their work. That would never had happened if they didn't hook up with a band which already built a certain reputation. Conclusion: collaboration between different creative domains results in a win/win situation, reaching new audiences from your partners.
3. Crossing the international borders
Finally, the project certainly had the goal to also break free from some geographic constraints. The band built a firm audience in Belgium and the Netherlands and is working hard on Germany and France. However, Deleting Borders is spreading over the whole world in a short timespan of only a week. Only the African continent is still lagging a bit behind.
To sum up, Deleting Borders has been a rewarding art and marketing experiment. Working closely together with two web artists helped us to rethink our creative process and to reach new fans all over the world. We are curious what will come up the next weeks.