BRTC is winding down on the East Coast as a lot of folks pack off to bed. Overall, the results of the campaign were good, especially for a first effort of its class. Could they have been better? Absolutely. Could they have been worse? Absolutely. Here’s some thoughts and initial lessons learned.
First, I would have liked to have had more transparency from the beginning. As I say often, transparency is the currency of trust. While Black Lab was a fine choice for the campaign, I would have liked to have seen more community involvement from the beginning in the selection of the band. However, that’s what I get for coming late to the party. That said, Black Lab was a good choice, and the band was certainly more than generous in their scholarship fund commitment.
Lesson: transparency pays off. The more transparent you are upfront, the less suspicion can be cast.
Second, I have the distinct sensation that podcasting is still inside of an echo chamber of sorts. When you look at the traffic stats from BRTC, you can see that there was a massive push at 9 AM ET, peaking at 10 AM ET, and then declining throughout the day. I had thought there’d be a second spike after work, when people got home, but traffic remained on the decline throughout the day. We got a lot of people to make a great push initially, but we tapped out our reach relatively early on. That tells me that we did a great job of reaching our audience, but our audience may be ourselves – the movement didn’t exhibit any exponential characteristics, as you’d normally see from a chain reaction of word of mouth. I think we would have been more successful by also sharing techniques for building audience.
Lesson: allot more lead time for a campaign like this and share more tools with the community for growing the reach of individual podcaster audiences prior to the campaign. Make the campaign benefit everyone who participates.
Third, time shifting can work against us for a small window. Podcasting and blogging are founded on RSS and the ability to consume content when you, the audience member, wants to consume it, not on the schedule of the content creator. While this is a good thing, it also makes coordinating the reaction of an audience much more difficult in a short period of time. Podcasts and blogs lack the immediacy of email, IM, and Twitter.
Lesson: build a mailing list early and emphasize it throughout the campaign to deliver better results on the day, OR expand the window of time in which action can be taken from a day to a week to better allow people to act on their schedule.
Fourth, we did not anticipate the strength of the global market. BRTC performed the best in countries that frankly, we didn’t expect it to. Looking at the initial returns, BRTC outperformed expectations in the Netherlands, Canada, and Germany, dominating the charts in those countries. It’s all too easy to forget that the Internet truly is global, and our reach might not be as great as we would like right now, but no one can deny its ability to cross borders.
Lesson: plan for the international community to participate and encourage them to do so.
Fifth, I think we had too many incongruent messages. There were essentially three main messages of BRTC – “stick it to the man/RIAA/record labels”, “raise money for charity”, and “show the power of new media”. While I think we did a decent job of tying them all together, in the beginning it was fragmented, and that may have hurt initial acceptance and uptake of the campaign.
Lesson: plan campaigns from the outset. Define a message or even multiple, congruent messages, but agree on what needs to be communicated.
Sixth, one of the things that I think hurt uptake in the more conservative parts of the country was the edgier aspect of the campaign. While the song was quite pleasant, the album art was decidedly not family friendly, and some of the initial language on the Bum Rush the Charts blog was also unquestionably not family friendly and not work safe. Also, the initial message of “kicking old media where it hurts” (albeit in much less friendly language) may have restricted traditional media coverage of the event.
Lesson: to ensure maximum audience participation, plan for family friendly/safe for work from the outset. No need to dive full-on into political correctness, but at least strive to reach the broadest audience possible, old and new media alike.
Now, after reading this, you’re probably thinking, wow, Chris, you must have thought Bum Rush the Charts was a complete failure, a complete disaster. Not so, not so at all. In fact, I think for an effort like this, it was a fantastic success. Consider this. How much does a record label spend to get a new single on the charts in one country? How much would it cost to launch a worldwide campaign to do the same? New media may not have achieved as much reach as I would have liked, but there’s no question that the campaign “moved the needle” and achieved very impressive results across the world.
More importantly, the campaign raised some money. While I’ve said before that you can’t shop your way to a better world, this was clearly a case of piggybacking for a greater good. Mark Nemcoff and Mike Yusi were going to run with Bum Rush the Charts (they are the founders) no matter what, and the fact that they were generous enough to let me piggyback on their event to raise some money for college scholarships speaks volumes to their characters. Even if only one person bought the track, that’d be 45 cents that someone wouldn’t need to take out of their own pockets to pay for college, and for that, whoever we draw for the scholarship will owe a debt of gratitude to Mark and Mike.
Finally, look at the incredible amount of press about the event despite an effective budget of $800 (for two press releases) plus the time and labor of those involved. Worldwide top 100 charts in Rock? Worldwide top 100 charts overall in select countries? For $800 plus labor? You can’t beat that return on investment. No, Bum Rush the Charts was a great first experiment to test the reach of new media, and with the lessons learned from our first collective efforts, it’s only going to get better from here on out.
Thank you to everyone who joined in.