I was recently asked by BBC Radio 4 's You and Yours about how social networking can produce results, bearing in mind that this artform also doubles as a 'favourite waste of time' for some people. I was drawn towards two examples, one hugely successful, the other a comedy of errors which ended in glorious failure. My story today concerns the positive example of how we created an online social movement to sell out a concert for the reclusive rock star Bill Nelson, leader of 70's pop art groups Be-Bop Deluxe and Red Noise. Bill left the rock'n'roll circus to concentrate on making music as an artform rather than for record company executive bonuses some years ago, but has admirers stretching from Sir Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, Eno, Brian May, The Foo Fighters and so on. To read up on some background, check Bill Nelson out by clicking on the picture:
Bill had been persuaded to perform at a special series of concerts for the "ITV Legends" series. Bill is not a great fan of music business contracts :-( This meant that he stood to lose a considerable sum of money if the concert did not sell out it's 125 tickets at £175 each. His fanbase had drawn a deep breath at the ticket price and 4 weeks out from the date, Bill told me that ticket sales were very poor indeed.
I decided to apply our social and traditional media skills to see if we could improve things. Nelson has a loyal but small fanbase, so I wrote them an open invitation entitled "Let's make this a sellout for Bill". The initial reaction was fairly risk averse. If I could typify the reactions, they would include:
"I don't know anything about marketing and frankly I think it is the pursuit of the devil"
"I would like to help but don't know how to"
"I don't have much spare time"
"Isn't it too late now?"
... and so on
To address the concerns over capability and time, we adopted the following strategy:
At first, very little happened, but then we had a breakthough. I had done some homework on the veteran BBC Radio 2 deejay Johnnie Walker and managed to get him to give the concert a mention. Here's the radio piece which I turned into a youtube video the same day to multiply the effect of the radio exposure with over 6000 viewings:
Shortly after that, another admirer managed to get a slot on BBC Radio 2's Radcliffe and Maconie show. Again, we quickly used this to multiply awareness and reach parts of Bill Nelson's fanbase that had lost touch with his work:
Once the fanbase saw that their actions could have an impact, we gained momentum and morale. The concert went on to break through the break-even point for Bill, bringing new and old fans of his work back to the fold. Bill himself said: "Just to say thanks again for your kind and generous efforts to publicise the 'Legends' TV show amongst fans and the media. Ticket sales, as of this evening, are now 108 out of a possible 125 sales. Thanks once again, Peter"
What then are the transferable lessons from this project?
Let's take a look at one of the concert pieces - A masterpiece from Bill's first Be-Bop Deluxe album entitled "Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape":
Find out more about using social media for results at Human Dynamics.
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