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A Fair Exchange

It amazes me how many musicians give away their music for free.

Now when I say free, I don’t just mean in the ‘no money changed hands’ way. I mean in the ‘no value changed hands’ way.

What’s the difference you may wonder. Well to me, you can ask for something other than money in exchange for your music.

How about an email address for instance?

There’s a saying in business that ‘the money is in the list’ and these days that’s true in the music business too.

By all means have your music available to listen to on Soundcloud and the like. But make sure that when someone downloads, they have to give their email address.

Once someone has given you their email address – if you’ve asked for it in the right way – they’ve given you permission to contact them again about your music.

Do you think that if you kept in touch with that person from time to time – let them know about gigs, new tracks, let them have exclusive access before the general public – they’d be more likely or less likely to buy from you at some point?

There’s a business adage that you have to make contact with someone seven times before they’ll become a buyer. With the ever increasing bombardment by marketing messages, I think that number has increased significantly.

So letting listeners download your music without giving you their email address is just like opening a shop and letting shoplifters have a field day. No matter how many tracks you let them download, if they are controlling the contact with you, you are far less likely to be able to sell them some music in the future.

Fake It Until You Make It!

“Fake It Until You Make It” can be a great philosophy.

“Act As If” to “Make It So”

There’s certainly a lot to be said for emulating the highly successful artists in your genre – whether it’s launching your range of merchandise or just simply believing you are the big success you are planning to be. Having that confidence and self belief works wonders in getting fans, suppliers and the media to follow you.

But there is one area where faking it can be a dangerous strategy – and it can actually backfire on you unless you know what you are doing.

Social media and music sharing sites give artists access to potential fans in a way that artists of the 60s, 70s, 80s and even the 90s could only dream of.

Many artists gather huge followings on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud etc – and even the most maverick music follower will follow trends to some degree and is more likely to listen to a track that’s had 20,000 plays than one that’s had 200.

So the challenge for an unknown artist is how to get to the stage of having 20,000 so that the track takes off and growth becomes self-perpetuating.

There are a growing number of websites that offer ‘get more fans/likes/followers/plays’ but be warned – these can do more harm than good in the long term.

There is a fine balance to be drawn between quantity and quality.

Likes from fake accounts may boost your profile in the short term but numbers aren’t everything.

The whole point of building a social media presence should be to build a fan base – and the whole point of building a fan base is to lead those people towards buying your music – and buying it repeatedly.

So just be careful about using these kind of services – and whatever you do, don’t start to believe your own hype and base income projections on a fan base that is built on sand.

Go Compare!

For many musicians, being compared to someone else is frustrating and annoying. Every artist likes to think they have their own unique sound, style, look.

And while it’s important to have a relatively individual ‘you’, there are huge benefits in giving some thought to who you are, or might be, compared to.

There’s a good chance that if you have a bit of a Rolling Stones vibe going on, then Rolling Stones fans might be drawn to your music. So you can then focus your efforts on getting your music in front of more Rolling Stones fans by:

  • using “Rolling Stones” tags when uploading your music to music websites
  • liking then interacting with the Rolling Stones Facebook page and any fan pages or tribute band pages
  • targeting advertising at those fans on websites they visit

Targeted advertising is cheaper than mass broadcast advertising. So you can make your advertising budget go a lot further by focusing it on smaller groups of people.

Many music websites work on the basis of ‘discovery’. Pioneered by Amazon (“People who bought this thing you’re buying also bought these things…”), discovery sites take users on a journey based on association. As users indicate they like a particular song or artist, the website finds other music it things the user will like.

So getting clear about who you could be compared with allows these websites to put your music in front of users who are far more likely to like it – which means they are more likely to connect with you, interact with you and eventually buy from you.

Life IS Good

In turbulent times, it is all so easy to get dragged into negative thought patterns.  Switch on any news channel or open any newspaper and if this was your only source of information you would think the world was about to come crashing down around our ears.  And if we believed this, and only this, then truly it would – for we would stop hoping, stop trying, stop laughing, stop living and just find a quiet place to curl up in a ball and wait for it all to be over.

Yet, no matter how challenging the circumstances there is always something positive happening, some good news – if we look hard enough to find it.  Sometimes we don’t have to look that hard – just differently.

A few winters ago in Cyprus we had some of the heaviest rain and biggest storms the island had seen in many years.  My deep rooted British obsession with the weather would normally have had me bemoaning the fact that I had travelled all that way, only to find the same miserable weather I’d left behind in the UK.  But as I sat in my favourite taverna on Larnaca promenade, the weather gave me the most wonderful experiences.  As I looked out across the promenade, the sky was as dark as slate and the sea had turned the most beautiful opalescent green colour.  The contrast of the two colours against each other was truly stunning.  Because the weather was cold, the taverna owner had lit a log fire which warmed me in a way that central heating can never do.  When I could tear my eyes away from the sea and sky, there were flames dancing to capture my imagination.

In recent years, while the press talked endlessly of doom and gloom in the property market, my property investments were finally delivering positive cashflow every month, due to the fall in interest rates.  So while property values may be lower, my properties are paying me and not the other way around – that sounds like good news to me.  But of course even that good news would be spun negatively by the press – ‘Greedy Landlords Profit at Tenants’ Expense’.

It is only after a recession that we hear about all the people who became millionaires during it.  The Great Depression of the 1930’s is said to have created more millionaires than any boom time in history.  Could it be that while the majority of people are soaking up the bad news broadcast by the media and conducting their lives using that as a compass, there are a select few who are using their brain power to find ways to succeed rather than reasons to fail?  I am determined that I will be one of those people this time around – someone who uses hitting the bottom as a springboard to new levels of success.  How about you?

A few months ago a good friend of mine sent me a link to an amazing video.  He wanted to share with me that no matter how big a setback we think we have been dealt, we can still achieve our dreams.  Watch the video and see what I mean:

Now doesn’t that inspire you to find the good in life!

UK Government Announces All Party Parliamentary Group for British Owners of Cyprus Properties

As someone who has been involved in Cyprus property for some time as an owner and a complex committee member, I’ve experienced all the problems faced by UK (and other nationality) owners. During the Gold Rush of the last decade, marketing companies were quick to tell us that Cyprus was just like the UK but with better weather. We were told the legal and banking systems were based on the UK and that Cyprus represented a sound investment from every perspective. However, those who bought quickly discovered this not to be the case and the marketeers who’d convinced us to buy had taken their hefty commissions and were no longer interested in helping their ‘valued clients’.

There have been several different action groups looking at the various issues but for many buyers and investors the cost of getting involved in these groups has proved prohibitive. With property values dropping like stones, mortgages going through the roof thanks to exchange rates and arbitrary rate changes and rentals at an all time low in terms of rates and occupancy, there’s nothing to spare to pay for speculative lawsuits and the like.

So I was delighted to hear that Bill Cash MP has been appointed to co-ordinate an All Party Parliamentary Group to investigate the whole Cyprus Property problem. Here’s Bill’s message, which I strongly urge you to act upon:

Please ask your MP to join the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Defence of the Interests of British Property Owners in Cyprus

As many of you may know, a meeting was held in Parliament on 31st October, at which it was agreed that I would co-ordinate an All Party Parliamentary Group for the Defence of the Interests of British Property Owners in Cyprus.

I am intending to hold the first session for that group as soon as reasonably possible. However, the setting up of the group depends upon your involvement – I am asking you to please contact your MP and urge them strongly to get in touch with me. This will mean that your MP can then join the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Defence of the Interests of British Property Owners in Cyprus.

I have been vigorously pursuing this issue in this country and Cyprus itself and have spoken to a number of government ministers there in my capacity as Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee during the Cyprus presidency.

I strongly recommend that you or other people you may know who are involved in trying to obtain justice and fairness in relation to their properties in Cyprus to contact their MP and urge them strongly to get in touch with me. This will mean that your MP can then join with me to form the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Defence of the Interests of British Property Owners in Cyprus. It will allow us to set up a fully, effective All Party Group to act as a parliamentary coordination for the defence of your interests.

It is very much in the interest of all those involved to have a parliamentary framework within which to continue to exert pressure on your behalf, irrespective of any legal considerations.

The various individuals and groups cover many different parts of the country with different constituencies and different MPs from all parties who I am sure will want to help but cannot currently do so unless there is a degree of coordination of the kind I am suggesting.

Please circulate this letter so that those involved may ask their MPs to join the group.

Yours ever,

Bill Cash
Member of Parliament, Stone

Happy Points

I enjoyed a lovely lunch with my friend Rachel the other day. 

We were talking about different people’s approach to the recession and their attitude towards money.  So many people have got themselves into a position of fear and have cut all ‘unnecessary’ spending.  Meals out, trips to the cinema, beauty treatments, holidays – all off limits.

Rachel and her husband have taken a different approach.  Mindful of just frittering money away (aren’t we all guilty of chucking a few quid away on things we neither really want or need?), they decided to invent Happy Points.

Much like the loyalty points that supermarkets award you for spending in their store, Happy Points are designed to encourage you to spend.  But the difference is that these points are all about focusing your attention on getting the joy out of your spending, or rather out of what you are spending your money on.

So a meal out at the local pub because you can’t be bothered cooking might not get many points, but a meal at a lovely restaurant where you have both taken the trouble to get dressed up, order just what you want from the menu and have a special bottle of wine with your meal gains lots of Happy Points. 

If you’ve had a stressful time at work, then spending some money on a relaxing massage or facial will again earn lots of Happy Points.   Having a weekend away in a boutique hotel where you take the time to reconnect with each other gets you both lots of Happy Points.  Buying an unexpected gift for a loved one earns double points – one lot for the happiness of giving, another for the joy of receiving.

It isn’t about going out and spending unnecessarily. It’s about making sure that when you do spend money, you gain the maximum number of Happy Points. 

And just like the supermarket schemes, Happy Points are redeemable – you can exchange them for less stress in your life, more joy every day and wonderful memories to keep forever.

Habits v Rituals

I spent this last weekend on a personal development workshop in London. A topic that was briefly touched upon really struck a chord with me.

Often we are encouraged to review and improve our habits. Whether it’s giving up smoking, improving our diet, getting more exercise or taking action in business.

We are what we repeatedly do

– Aristotle

Repeat the same pattern of behaviour until it becomes an unconscious habit, something we do without thinking. That is the conventional self improvement wisdom.

Continue reading Habits v Rituals

The Power of Re-Marketing

Almost every sales and marketing consultant will tell you that you need to ‘touch’ or interact with your prospects multiple times before they will buy.

As the number of marketing messages each of us is exposed to rises almost daily, so the number of touches needed grows too.

Conventional wisdom suggests seven – your prospects have to be exposed to your message at least seven times before they will buy from you – though this figure appears to be rising.

When it comes to internet marketing, the accepted way to tackle this is to use a variety of means to drive targeted traffic (suspects) to your website, where your landing page (be that a special squeeze page as they’re called or a conventional home page) encourages them to interact with your website in some way so that you can capture their email address and convert them into a prospect. Once you have their email address, you can then send a series of messages to build the relationship and eventually encourage your prospects to buy from you.

It’s a tried and tested process used the world over and there are endless articles, books and indeed websites dedicated to how to maximise the traffic to your website, the conversion of that traffic into prospects and those prospects into customers.

But no matter how good you get at internet marketing you are never going to achieve a 100% conversion rate. The overwhelming majority (as many as 99%) of people visiting your website will stop by, have a quick look and move on somewhere else – no matter how well designed your website or how targeted the traffic.

So if 99% of people who visit your website are just passing by and don’t leave you any clue as to who they are, how are you going to keep in touch with them? After all, they were interested enough to stop by in the first place…

What if you could stay in touch with those people somehow, and ensure that they continued to see your message the seven, ten, twenty or fifty times needed to convert them into a prospect then a customer? What if you could keep in touch with them for a year or more? Do you think you could eventually sell quite a few of them something?

Welcome to the wonderful world of Re-Marketing.

There has been something of a revolution going on in the last year or so but it hasn’t really hit the headlines. A number of advertising networks have grown, Google being the biggest (yes, those guys again!) that take smart advertising to a whole new level.

In traditional marketing, a key factor is working out where your suspects and prospects hang out – which newspapers and magazines they read etc. – so that you can ensure your message is strategically placed.

Pay-per-click advertising took that to a new level – now you could get your advert in front of suspects and prospects at the very moment they were searching for what you had to offer.

Re-Marketing is the next generation.

Every computer on the internet has a unique address, an IP address. It’s what web servers use to send you the pages you request when you type in a URL or click on a link – the computer equivalent of your house number and postcode, if you like. Google Analytics and other web tools allow you or your website team to capture the IP address of every visitor to your site – whether they buy from you, subscribe to your mailing list, browse a while or just click straight past to somewhere else.

What Re-Marketing does is create a way for your message to follow that IP address around the internet and for your message to miraculously appear on other websites that your visitor browses.

So someone could visit your website today but not interact. Then tomorrow they are browsing the BBC website and lo and behold there’s an advert for your product or service on that website. How spooky – they were only looking at your site yesterday! A couple of days later they follow a link to read an interesting article on the website of their favourite national newspaper – and “look at that, there’s that company again! Wow, these guys must be doing really well, they’re everywhere! I really must go back and have another look at that website…”

One of the great benefits of Re-Marketing is that it is laser targeted. Your advert is only displayed to a small audience – those who’ve visited your website (and you can niche down even further than that) – and because you are being so targeted in when your advert gets served, the cost of clicks is much lower than if you were bidding against your competitors for a broader audience.

Another benefit is that it gives the impression of ubiquity. The majority of internet users aren’t that tech savvy, and won’t figure out that your ad is only being shown to them because they’ve already been on your website. In their mind you’ll be on the BBC, Sky, Google, Yahoo, MSN, The Times, their favourite specialist magazine site etc. And being associated with those big brands that they trust, being seen to be hanging out in all the right places, does wonders for your credibility and brand awareness – as well as the more direct effect of interacting with those previously untraceable suspects and turning them into prospects and customers.

So integrating Re-Marketing into your marketing strategy can deliver real benefits.

It’s something I’m going to be exploring in more detail for some of my websites – so when I start to implement it you’ll definitely be seeing me around!

Life as a Buffet

I am a firm believer in the Law of Attraction, and as such every morning I receive an email from Abraham Hicks with an inspirational message to remind me of how the Law of Attraction works.

This morning’s message struck a particular chord with me – presenting a perspective on life, its choices and challenges that I hadn’t considered before.  I quote:

“We want you to enjoy the contrasting experience, just like you enjoy the contrasting buffet. And we want you to reach the place (and practicing Virtual Reality will help you to gain this confidence) that whenever you’re in front of a buffet that has so much that you do like to eat, as well as some that you don’t like to eat, you don’t feel frustrated that there are things there you don’t want to eat. You don’t feel compelled to put them on your plate and eat them; you just pick the things that you like. And the Universe of thought is the same way. You can choose from it the things that you like”

Think about it – when we are at a wedding or business function and there’s a buffet, do we go along the table bemoaning all the food we don’t like or do we take delight in loading our plates with all the things we do like?  Unless there’s absolutely nothing on the table that we like, I suspect it’s the latter.  Similarly, we don’t waste time with ‘I wish they’d served….’ – we quite happily eat whatever is our favourite from among what’s on offer.

So why when it comes to life in general do we spend so much time being unhappy about all the things around us that we don’t like, that we don’t want.  Or equally, being frustrated that what we’d really like in our lives isn’t here right now.

Perhaps if we looked at life as a buffet from which to choose the tastiest morsels with which to load up our plates, we may find we enjoy it so much more.  And we may discover that the Law of Attraction becomes our own personal chef, working behind the scenes to keep cooking up our favourite dishes.  That over time our chef learns what we enjoy the most and starts cooking it more often.  But also that this amazing chef will sometimes serve up something we didn’t order, something that might look a little strange at first  – but if we are brave enough to taste it, we may just discover a new favourite flavour.

Is Your Retirement at Risk?

According to the latest Pension Trends data from the Office for National Statistics, the total amount saved into pensions fell from £20.9 billion in 2007/8, to £18.7 billion in 2009/10.

On the surface, this may appear to be a worrying trend, and as such the Governments pension reforms, due to come into force in 2012 seem timely and prudent. Essentially every UK employer will have to provide a pension scheme for their employees and auto-enrol them in it, deducting a minimum contribution from their salary.

However, I see things rather differently.

In my opinion, saving into a traditional pension, intending that to be your only source of income in retirement is incredibly risky.

But unfortunately Government doesn’t think in the same way and so all employees are going to be forced to save in this way.

Sadly 99.9% of them will never understand just what a risk they are taking.

We often hear reports about stock market volatility – and therein lies the problem. With pension funds invested in stocks, shares and other paper assets, they are always at the mercy of the stock market – which is overwhelmingly influenced by sentiment over any ‘hard’ factors.

Add to this the fact that with a traditional pension you declare ‘game over’ at the point of retirement and you are at the mercy of time and timing.

A 63 year old Virgo, receiving his pension statement in July 2007 would have seen his fund riding at an all time high. Come his 65th birthday in September 2009 his pension fund would be worth less than half its 2007 value.

He’s gone from imagining how he’ll spend his retirement to wondering if he can afford to. If he retires, his pension pot buys him an annuity. That means his money is no longer invested – it’s just a pot that he’s drawing out of with nothing more going into it. He can never get a better pension.

He can only improve his finances by working or refinancing his home.

The stress of all this leads him to an early grave. His widow, in many cases, now only gets 60% of the pension. When she goes, so does the pension.

When you invest in stocks and shares, if the company goes bump you lose your investment. All you had was a piece of paper. When the company is no longer there – neither is your investment.

That’s why I don’t invest in stocks and shares – unless it’s a business which I have some influence over. Last time I looked, no matter how much I spend at M&S or Sainsburys or Royal Bank of Scotland, I don’t get much of a say in what they do next.

If I don’t have control or influence, then I am speculating rather than investing – yet this is what the Government is wanting the UK population to do.

They’ve made a mess of the state pension, now they want everyone to fend for themselves – but they are encouraging, or even forcing, people into a retirement plan that is based on an increasingly volatile stock market.

So while the news that people aren’t investing as much in pensions because of the recession seems like bad news, actually there could be a silver lining to that cloud.

I just hope that before they get the available funds to start investing again, they gain the financial intelligence that should be taught in schools, and realise that there are far less risky ways of building a retirement income.