Hal Ritson of The Young Punx / MofoHifi opens MIDEM 2010
On Saturday 23rd January, the world’s leading music industry conference, MIDEM, was kicked off by a panel discussion with Hal Ritson of The Young Punx and Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls discussing the artist’s perspective on new models for the promotion of music in the digital economy. Other speakers following included Pharrell, Ed O’Brian of Radiohead and Fallout Boy.
There has been a lot of press coverage of the event, but here are a couple of examples :
BBC News Website
Bands that took the corporate buck may once have been accused of selling out, but commercial sponsorship is now often seen as a smart way to fund your music.
Hal Ritson sings with Young Punx and is Dizzee Rascal’s live band leader
So UK dance act The Young Punx accepted sponsorship from beer company Warsteiner, which wanted to raise its profile among clubbers in Germany.
Warsteiner put on club nights where The Young Punx DJ’d and performed live, the company gave away their music, used it in its MTV ads and the band featured the drink in their podcasts.
“They were paying to have us associated with their brand,” says Young Punx singer and Dizzee Rascal’s live musical director Hal Ritson. “We were happy to be associated with their brand since our brand is basically having a few drinks and having a good time.”
During last year’s promotion, according to Facebook statistics, the number of Young Punx fans in Germany shot up and Germany went from being “a territory of no relevance” to third on the list behind the UK and USA.
“That’s a fanbase that came through one year without us maybe selling many records, but with many, many people hearing our music. And we got paid, so everyone’s happy.”
Artists are getting in early with their views on digital music innovation this MidemNet – the opening panel on day one features Amanda Palmer (centre, of Dresden Dolls and now solo fame) and Hal Ritson from The Young Punx (left)… It also made history as the first ever MidemNet session to kick off with a ukulele cover of Radiohead’s Creep (Palmer), interpretive dance (Ritson) and a sock puppet (representing Paul Van Dyk).
Ritson talked about his own online activities, saying an artist has to do three things nowadays: first, get people to listen to the music; second, get some emotional contact with them; and third, find a revenue stream from somewhere.
“We’ve totally embraced the point that writers of music blogs are totally taking over as the new tastemakers of music,” he said. So Ritson looks at blogs giving away free music not as a threat, but as the modern equivalent of radio promo. “You’re getting people to hear your music,” he said.
Ritson’s organisation has someone whose job is to monitor the music blogs, and maintain a relationship with the key sites. “We try to manage the release of material to the blogs pro-actively, so that on the same day, five of the key blogs might get our new track,” he said.
The Young Punx did a deal with a German beer company, for example, with the brand putting on music events, and the band integrating the brand into its podcasts. “So they were giving away our music, they were paying us to be associated with their brand – the revenue was coming from them, and everyone was happy.”
Through the course of last year, Germany became the third most important market for The Young Punx, as measured by Facebook fans. “That came from us not selling many records, but many many people hearing our music – and we got paid!… You don’t measure success by sales any more. How many people are enjoying what you have to offer, and then you have to ask whether my business is profitable.”
Ritson also gave what may prove to be the key tip for how to ‘use’ social media to connect with fans – “you have to do it passionately and personally. People are interested in the artists, not in somebody from the marketing department”.
Hal Ritson from the Young Punx gave a punchy assessment of how artists should be using social media to connect with their fans at MidemNet today. The key lesson: they have to truly embrace it.
“You have to do it passionately and personally,” he said. “People are interested in the artists, not in somebody from the marketing department.”
For Young Punx, this includes podcasts that regularly get 10,000 listeners, and which have become one of the key ways the band’s music gets discovered around the world.