Dotted Music Blog

Dick Huey: Social Media Is All About Discipline

Dick Huey is a founder and CEO of Toolshed, a US based music marketing agency. Throughout his career Dick has orchestrated over 350 digital campaigns, worked at Beggars Group and consulted various companies including Spotify.
In this Music Growth Talks episode, Dick shared numerous tips on rocking your social media presence as a musician – from focusing on one network at a time to being determined, and never forgetting to put your personality in what you do.
He talked on where the music industry is heading to, the hack they used to place artists on MP3 blogs in 2000s, the DTF, income streams and other topics. Dick, who is also a board member of CASH Music, shared his favourite social media management tools and provided a great case on MNDR, an electronic music duo with releases on Ultra.

Some of the topics covered in the conversation:

  • How Dick started at Beggars Group, and how he founded Toolshed.
  • Serving MP3 downloads for cheap back in early 2000s.
  • A shift in the music industry (and an open question to streaming services).
  • Why tech companies have to give back to the music ecosystem.
  • “Artists who put their own personalities in what they do are successful. Those that don’t are much less likely to be successful.”
  • When an artist is not into talking on social media.
  • Picking the right platform for each musician.
  • MNDR marketing case study.
  • Importance of being focused, determined and disciplined.

Listen to the episode below:

Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify or Apple Podcasts, or by searching “Music Growth Talks” in your favorite podcast app.

A few notable passages from the episode


Back in the early days, an artist that put up a Direct-to-Fan offering was able to leverage a bit of a novelty factor associated with it. The fan would react like, “Oh, how cool, I get to support this artist.” People were experimenting, they were willing to experiment and think that this is kind of a fun idea, so they would contribute a little bit to see what they get back. Several years down the road, people are much more jaded. They are much more suspicious of being asked for money because they really want something meaningful back if they're going to give money. What we found is that artists that really communicate in their own voice and really put their own personality into what they do are successful and continue to be successful. The ones that don't are much less likely to be successful.
A great case in point is Freedy Johnston who is a singer-songwriter that started in the 90s. He had records on Elektra and Bar/None. The communications that he puts out are him. The notes that he writes are written by him, his personality comes through them, and he's sensitive in what he writes. That's what people respond to: they respond to the person.
When we do Direct-to-Fan or even when we do social media marketing campaigns, there's some spill over here. We walk a bit of a fine line in wanting to make sure that the voice of the artist comes through. There are artists who are really good at this and there are artists who really don't get it at all, or don't wanna do it at all. You can tell the difference between the two. When I say that there needs to be engagement, I don't necessarily mean that every artist needs to be out there 24/7 on social media. I don't think that's important. Maybe for some artists it is but not generally. It depends on what you want to be as an artist. However, I do think that artists need to take the same kind of time and care they put into making their record when they communicate with their fan base, if they want to be successful in that space. If an artist’s personality does not come through in their social media or their Direct-to-Fan offering, they will still get some subsection of their fan base to buy whatever they put out, but they’re not going to get people who are not necessarily superfans. And so it's remarkable to me how many artists profess to want to use social media but have absolutely no idea what they want to say, or are just not interested in crafting their own messages.

Focus on One Platform at a Time

You may know a band called MNDR composed of Amanda Warner and Peter Wade. MNDR was a great example of an act that nobody had ever heard of who learned how to communicate with social media.
When [Toolshed] started with MNDR, we looked at where they had a following on social media. There was really no Facebook presence. Amanda was communicating on Twitter, but actually communicating, so talking back and forth with different people, different artists. I think she had about a thousand Twitter followers at the time, and really that was it in terms of social media. So then, we didn’t say, “Well, you're missing a Facebook and you're missing this and you're missing that, you should have one of these.” We said, “Okay Twitter's where you're naturally communicating, so let's look at platforms that leverage Twitter, let's look at other communities that tie into one that you're already engaged with.” At the time, was on the rise. So we got Amanda to do a number of guest DJ slots in different Turntable rooms. We worked directly with on this and those were really helpful. We were able to not only get her to actually participate and have the opportunity to chat, which she loved, but we were able to create her own room at one point and get a large number of people to show up there. We were able to reach out to her limited number of superfans at that time, who were also active on Twitter, and asked them if they would help spread the word about this and if they did, they would get to get up and DJ with her. Then we broadened beyond that and got her interested in Instagram. So we focused first on this one platform, and then we went to platforms that made sense for her to follow up with and to grow into.
She's an electronic musician, so the next platform that we really started taking a look at was SoundCloud. With SoundCloud, we also focused on tying this potential new community to her existing community base.
The reason we were able to help build such a huge community is because Amanda participated. It was a time commitment from her for sure, but the reason it worked for her is because she's focused, determined, and disciplined. It takes those kinds of things.
You can easily spend your whole day on social media if you want to. But what is more effective is if you schedule it into certain parts of your day, such as planning an hour on social media when you wake up. During this time, you go look at the conversations that are happening, you call out some people, you reach out and retweet, and that’s what you do for that morning. But you have to be disciplined enough to say that after you get that done, you’re going to sit down and write some music or go practice, because, at the end of the day, your music has got to be great too. It's a one-two punch. It's not just about being good on social media while having lousy music.
So let’s summarize in three points:
First, a social network is social. You have to communicate and you have to share some of yourself. It doesn't matter if it's weird. As an example, Cat Power uses more hashtags and emojis than anybody else, and people love it. They love her Instagram profile, they love her Twitter, they love her Facebook because it's her. It doesn't matter who you are. What matters is that you share some of who you are.
Second, don't forget that it's a dance. It's an opportunity for you to get to know people the same way they get to know you. That may feel overwhelming, but if you have a problem with it feeling overwhelming then schedule the time. Tell yourself, “I'm going to commit to this and the reason I'm going to commit to it is because it's part of my career as an artist.” Commit an hour a day or an hour every two days. I wouldn’t recommend much less than an hour every two days. If you're serious about it, if questions happen, respond to them. Don't just leave questions unanswered. Nothing's more deadly for a conversation than when you feel like the person you're trying to talk to is not engaged.
And third, make sure when you enter a community and that you pay attention to that community. Try to use the opportunity to show a little bit of yourself and to show off the capabilities or the opportunities that present themselves in that particular community. So if you're doing a remix contest for instance, or you're participating on SoundCloud then spend some time looking around at other people within those communities. Don't just fill out your own profile and have it be an island unto itself. There are other people there who are doing interesting work, don't be afraid to share their work. Don't be afraid to follow them, to repost, or to like, or to favorite. That's how you create and engage in community. By showing other people in the community that you're actually paying attention to what they're doing and that you see it and in some cases share it. Another example is if you're going to retweet, don't always just retweet without making a comment. I found it's much more successful if you take the extra little minute to put in a little bit of your opinion. It’s the same on Soundcloud. If you're sharing or favoriting, you should comment too. If all you ever do is post and it's pretty clear that you're never looking at anybody else, it's going take you that much longer to build up your presence. So take the extra time. People will see that you're engaged and you're going to get feedback in return.

Show's notes:

Andrew Apanov is the founder of the Dotted Music digital marketing agency, and host of the Music Growth Talks podcast.
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